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Full text of "Jnana Yoga (Swami Vivekananda book)"

Jnana Yoga 




Jnana Yoga 



Swami Vivekananda 







Swami Vivekananda 



Book: Jnana Yoga 

Author: Swami Vivekananda 

E-book editor: Tito Dutta 

Price: Free 

License: This work was published before 1 January, 1 923. This work is in the public domain 

worldwide. 
Permission: You are free to copy, share, distribute this E-book. 

Year: April, 2012 



Table of contents 

CHAPTER I 

THE NECESSITY OF RELIGION 

CHAPTER II 

THE REAL NATURE OF MAN 

CHAPTER III 

MAYA AND ILLUSION 

CHAPTER IV 

MAYA AND THE EVOLUTION OF THE CONCEPTION OF GOD 

CHAPTER V 

MAYA AND FREEDOM 

CHAPTER VI 

THE ABSOLUTE AND MANIFESTATION 

CHAPTER VII 

GOD IN EVERYTHING 

CHAPTER VIII 

REALISATION 

CHAPTER IX 

UNITY IN DIVERSITY 

CHAPTER X 

THE FREEDOM OF THE SOUL 

CHAPTER XI 

THE COSMOS: The Macrocosm 

CHAPTER XII 

THE COSMOS: The Microcosm 

CHAPTER XIII 

IMMORTALITY 

CHAPTER XIV 

THE ATM AN 

CHAPTER XV 

THE ATMAN: ITS BONDAGE AND FREEDOM 

CHAPTER XVI 

THE REAL AND THE APPARENT MAN 



CHAPTER I 
THE NECESSITY OF RELIGION 

( Delivered in London ) 

Of all the forces that have worked and are still working to mould the destinies of the human 
race, none, certainly, is more potent than that, the manifestation of which we call religion. All 
social organisations have as a background, somewhere, the workings of that peculiar force, and 
the greatest cohesive impulse ever brought into play amongst human units has been derived 
from this power. It is obvious to all of us that in very many cases the bonds of religion have 
proved stronger than the bonds of race, or climate, or even of descent. It is a well-known fact 
that persons worshipping the same God, believing in the same religion, have stood by each 
other, with much greater strength and constancy, than people of merely the same descent, or 
even brothers. Various attempts have been made to trace the beginnings of religion. In all the 
ancient religions which have come down to us at the present day, we find one claim made — 
that they are all supernatural, that their genesis is not, as it were, in the human brain, but that 
they have originated somewhere outside of it. 

Two theories have gained some acceptance amongst modern scholars. One is the spirit 
theory of religion, the other the evolution of the idea of the Infinite. One party maintains that 
ancestor worship is the beginning of religious ideas; the other, that religion originates in the 
personification of the powers of nature. Man wants to keep up the memory of his dead relatives 
and thinks they are living even when the body is dissolved, and he wants to place food for them 
and, in a certain sense, to worship them. Out of that came the growth we call religion. 

Studying the ancient religions of the Egyptians, Babylonians, Chinese, and many other races in 
America and elsewhere, we find very clear traces of this ancestor worship being the beginning 
of religion. With the ancient Egyptians, the first idea of the soul was that of a double. Every 
human body contained in it another being very similar to it; and when a man died, this double 
went out of the body and yet lived on. But the life of the double lasted only so long as the dead 
body remained intact, and that is why we find among the Egyptians so much solicitude to keep 
the body uninjured. And that is why they built those huge pyramids in which they preserved the 
bodies. For, if any portion of the external body was hurt, the double would be correspondingly 
injured. This is clearly ancestor worship. With the ancient Babylonians we find the same idea of 
the double, but with a variation. The double lost all sense of love; it frightened the living to give 
it food and drink, and to help it in various ways. It even lost all affection for its own children and 
its own wife. Among the ancient Hindus also, we find traces of this ancestor worship. Among 
the Chinese, the basis of their religion may also be said to be ancestor worship, and it still 
permeates the length and breadth of that vast country. In fact, the only religion that can really 
be said to flourish in China is that of ancestor worship. Thus it seems, on the one hand, a very 
good position is made out for those who hold the theory of ancestor worship as the beginning of 
religion. 

On the other hand, there are scholars who from the ancient Aryan literature show that religion 
originated in nature worship. Although in India we find proofs of ancestor worship everywhere, 
yet in the oldest records there is no trace of it whatsoever. In the Rig-Veda Samhita, the most 



ancient record of the Aryan race, we do not find any trace of it. Modern scholars think, it is 
the worship of nature that they find there. The human mind seems to struggle to get a peep 
behind the scenes. The dawn, the evening, the hurricane, the stupendous and gigantic forces 
of nature, its beauties, these have exercised the human mind, and it aspires to go beyond, to 
understand something about them. In the struggle they endow these phenomena with personal 
attributes, giving them souls and bodies, sometimes beautiful, sometimes transcendent. Every 
attempt ends by these phenomena becoming abstractions whether personalised or not. So 
also it is found with the ancient Greeks; their whole mythology is simply this abstracted nature 
worship. So also with the ancient Germans, the Scandinavians, and all the other Aryan races. 
Thus, on this side, too, a very strong case has been made out, that religion has its origin in the 
personification of the powers of nature. 

These two views, though they seem to be contradictory, can be reconciled on a third basis, 
which, to my mind, is the real germ of religion, and that I propose to call the struggle to 
transcend the limitations of the senses. Either, man goes to seek for the spirits of his ancestors, 
the spirits of the dead, that is, he wants to get a glimpse of what there is after the body is 
dissolved, or, he desires to understand the power working behind the stupendous phenomena 
of nature. Whichever of these is the case, one thing is certain, that he tries to transcend the 
limitations of the senses. He cannot remain satisfied with his senses; he wants to go beyond 
them. The explanation need not be mysterious. To me it seems very natural that the first 
glimpse of religion should come through dreams. The first idea of immortality man may well get 
through dreams. Is that not a most wonderful state? And we know that children and untutored 
minds find very little difference between dreaming and their awakened state. What can be more 
natural than that they find, as natural logic, that even during the sleep state when the body is 
apparently dead, the mind goes on with all its intricate workings? What wonder that men will at 
once come to the conclusion that when this body is dissolved for ever, the same working will go 
on? This, to my mind, would be a more natural explanation of the supernatural, and through this 
dream idea the human mind rises to higher and higher conceptions. Of course, in time, the vast 
majority of mankind found out that these dreams are not verified by their waking states, and that 
during the dream state it is not that man has a fresh existence, but simply that he recapitulates 
the experiences of the awakened state. 

But by this time the search had begun, and the search was inward, arid man continued inquiring 
more deeply into the different stages of the mind and discovered higher states than either 
the waking or the dreaming. This state of things we find in all the organised religions of the 
world, called either ecstasy or inspiration. In all organised religions, their founders, prophets, 
and messengers are declared to have gone into states of mind that were neither waking nor 
sleeping, in which they came face to face with a new series of facts relating to what is called the 
spiritual kingdom. They realised things there much more intensely than we realise facts around 
us in our waking state. Take, for instance, the religions of the Brahmins. The Vedas are said to 
be written by Rishis. These Rishis were sages who realised certain facts. The exact definition of 
the Sanskrit word Rishi is a Seer of Mantras — of the thoughts conveyed in the Vedic hymns. 
These men declared that they had realised — sensed, if that word can be used with regard to 
the supersensuous — certain facts, and these facts they proceeded to put on record. We find 
the same truth declared amongst both the Jews and the Christians. 

Some exceptions may be taken in the case of the Buddhists as represented by the Southern 
sect. It may be asked — if the Buddhists do not believe in any God or soul, how can their 
religion be derived from the supersensuous state of existence? The answer to this is that even 
the Buddhists find an eternal moral law, and that moral law was not reasoned out in our sense 
of the word But Buddha found it, discovered it, in a supersensuous state. Those of you who 



have studied the life of Buddha even as briefly given in that beautiful poem, The Light of Asia, 
may remember that Buddha is represented as sitting under the Bo-tree until he reached that 
supersensuous state of mind. All his teachings came through this, and not through intellectual 
cogitations. 

Thus, a tremendous statement is made by all religions; that the human mind, at certain 
moments, transcends not only the limitations of the senses, but also the power of reasoning. It 
then comes face to face with facts which it could never have sensed, could never hive reasoned 
out. These facts are the basis of all the religions of the world. Of course we have the right to 
challenge these facts, to put them to the test of reason. Nevertheless, all the existing religions of 
the world claim for the human mind this peculiar power of transcending the limits of the senses 
and the limits of reason; and this power they put forward as a statement of fact. 

Apart from the consideration of tie question how far these facts claimed by religions are true, we 
find one characteristic common to them all. They are all abstractions as contrasted with the 
concrete discoveries of physics, for instance; and in all the highly organised religions they take 
the purest form of Unit Abstraction, either in the form of an Abstracted Presence, as an 
Omnipresent Being, as an Abstract Personality called God, as a Moral Law, or in the form of an 
Abstract Essence underlying every existence. In modern times, too, the attempts made to 
preach religions without appealing to the supersensuous state if the mind have had to take up 
the old abstractions of the Ancients and give different names to them as "Moral Law", the "Ideal 
Unity", and so forth, thus showing that these abstractions are not in the senses. None of us 
have yet seen an "Ideal Human Being", and yet we are told to believe in it. None of us have yet 
seen an ideally perfect man, and yet without that ideal we cannot progress. Thus, this one fact 
stands out from all these different religions, that there is an Ideal Unit Abstraction, which is put 
before us, either in the form of a Person or an Impersonal Being, or a Law, or a Presence, or an 
Essence. We are always struggling to raise ourselves up to that ideal. Every human being, 
whosoever and wheresoever he may be, has an ideal of infinite power. Every human being has 
an ideal of infinite pleasure. Most of the works that we find around us, the activities displayed 
everywhere, are due to the struggle for this infinite power or this infinite pleasure. But a few 
quickly discover that although they are struggling for infinite power, it is not through the senses 
that it can be reached. They find out very soon that that infinite pleasure is not to be got through 
the senses, or, in other words, the senses are too limited, and the body is too limited, to express 
the Infinite. To manifest the Infinite through the finite is impossible, and sooner or later, man 
learns to give up the attempt to express the Infinite through the finite. This giving up, this 
renunciation of the attempt, is the background of ethics. Renunciation is the very basis upon 
which ethics stands. There never was an ethical code preached which had not renunciation for 
its basis. 

Ethics always says, "Not I, but thou." Its motto is, "Not self, but non-self." The vain ideas of 
individualism, to which man clings when he is trying to find that Infinite Power or that Infinite 
Pleasure through the senses, have to be given up — say the laws of ethics. You have to 
put yourself last, and others before you. The senses say, "Myself first." Ethics says, "I must 
hold myself last." Thus, all codes of ethics are based upon this renunciation; destruction, not 
construction, of the individual on the material plane. That Infinite will never find expression upon 
the material plane, nor is it possible or thinkable. 

So, man has to give up the plane of matter and rise to other spheres to seek a deeper 
expression of that Infinite. In this way the various ethical laws are being moulded, but all have 
that one central idea, eternal self-abnegation. Perfect self-annihilation is the ideal of ethics. 
People are startled if they are asked not to think of their individualities. They seem so very much 



afraid of losing what they call their individuality. At the same time, the same men would declare 
the highest ideals of ethics to be right, never for a moment thinking that the scope, the goal, the 
idea of all ethics is the destruction, and not the building up, of the individual. 

Utilitarian standards cannot explain the ethical relations of men, for, in the first place, we cannot 
derive any ethical laws from considerations of utility. Without the supernatural sanction as it is 
called, or the perception of the superconscious as I prefer to term it, there can be no ethics. 
Without the struggle towards the Infinite there can be no ideal. Any system that wants to bind 
men down to the limits of their own societies is not able to find an explanation for the ethical 
laws of mankind. The Utilitarian wants us to give up the struggle after the Infinite, the reaching- 
out for the Supersensuous, as impracticable and absurd, and, in the same breath, asks us to 
take up ethics and do good to society. Why should we do good? Doing good is a secondary 
consideration. We must have an ideal. Ethics itself is not the end, but the means to the end. If 
the end is not there, why should we be ethical? Why should I do good to other men, and not 
injure them? If happiness is the goal of mankind, why should I not make myself happy and 
others unhappy? What prevents me? In the second place, the basis of utility is too narrow. All 
the current social forms and methods are derived from society as it exists, but what right has 
the Utilitarian to assume that society is eternal? Society did not exist ages ago, possibly will 
not exist ages hence. Most probably it is one of the passing stages through which we are going 
towards a higher evolution, and any law that is derived from society alone cannot be eternal, 
cannot cover the whole ground of man's nature. At best, therefore, Utilitarian theories can only 
work under present social conditions. Beyond that they have no value. But a morality an ethical 
code, derived from religion and spirituality, has the whole of infinite man for its scope. It takes up 
the individual, but its relations are to the Infinite, and it takes up society also — because society 
is nothing but numbers of these individuals grouped together; and as it applies to the individual 
and his eternal relations, it must necessarily apply to the whole of society, in whatever condition 
it may be at any given time. Thus we see that there is always the necessity of spiritual religion 
for mankind. Man cannot always think of matter, however pleasurable it may be. 

It has been said that too much attention to things spiritual disturbs our practical relations in this 
world. As far back as in the days of the Chinese sage Confucius, it was said, "Let us take care 
of this world: and then, when we have finished with this world, we will take care of other world." 
It is very well that we should take care of this world. But if too much attention to the spiritual 
may affect a little our practical relations, too much attention to the so-called practical hurts us 
here and hereafter. It makes us materialistic. For man is not to regard nature as his goal, but 
something higher. 

Man is man so long as he is struggling to rise above nature, and this nature is both internal 
and external. Not only does it comprise the laws that govern the particles of matter outside us 
and in our bodies, but also the more subtle nature within, which is, in fact, the motive power 
governing the external. It is good and very grand to conquer external nature, but grander still 
to conquer our internal nature. It is grand and good to know the laws that govern the stars 
and planets; it is infinitely grander and better to know the laws that govern the passions, the 
feelings, the will, of mankind. This conquering of the inner man, understanding the secrets of 
the subtle workings that are within the human mind, and knowing its wonderful secrets, belong 
entirely to religion. Human nature — the ordinary human nature, I mean — wants to see big 
material facts. The ordinary man cannot understand anything that is subtle. Well has it been 
said that the masses admire the lion that kills a thousand lambs, never for a moment thinking 
that it is death to the lambs. Although a momentary triumph for the lion; because they find 
pleasure only in manifestations of physical strength. Thus it is with the ordinary run of mankind. 
They understand and find pleasure in everything that is external. But in every society there is 



a section whose pleasures are not in the senses, but beyond, and who now and then catch 
glimpses of something higher than matter and struggle to reach it. And if we read the history of 
nations between the lines, we shall always find that the rise of a nation comes with an increase 
in the number of such men; and the fall begins when this pursuit after the Infinite, however 
vain Utilitarians may call it, has ceased. That is to say, the mainspring of the strength Of every 
race lies in its spirituality, and the death of that race begins the day that spirituality wanes and 
materialism gains ground. 

Thus, apart from the solid facts and truths that we may learn from religion, apart from the 
comforts that we may gain from it, religion, as a science, as a study, is the greatest and 
healthiest exercise that the human mind can have. This pursuit of the Infinite, this struggle to 
grasp the Infinite, this effort to get beyond the limitations of the senses — out of matter, as it 
were — and to evolve the spiritual man — this striving day and night to make the Infinite one 
with our being — this struggle itself is the grandest and most glorious that man can make. 
Some persons find the greatest pleasure in eating. We have no right to say that they should not. 
Others find the greatest pleasure in possessing certain things. We have no right to say that they 
should not. But they also have no right to say "no" to the man who finds his highest pleasure in 
spiritual thought. The lower the organisation, the greater the pleasure in the senses. Very few 
men can eat a meal with the same gusto as a dog or a wolf. But all the pleasures of the dog or 
the wolf have gone, as it were into the senses. The lower types of humanity in all nations find 
pleasure in the senses, while the cultured and the educated find it in thought, in philosophy, 
in arts and sciences. Spirituality is a still higher plane. The subject being infinite, that plane is 
the highest, and the pleasure there is the highest for those who can appreciate it. So, even on 
the utilitarian ground that man is to seek for pleasure, he should cultivate religious thought, for 
it is the highest pleasure that exists. Thus religion, as a study, seems to me to be absolutely 
necessary. 

We can see it in its effects. It is the greatest motive power that moves the human mind No other 
ideal can put into us the same mass of energy as the spiritual. So far as human history goes, 
it is obvious to all of us that this has been the case and that its powers are not dead. I do not 
deny that men, on simply utilitarian grounds, can be very good and moral. There have been 
many great men in this world perfectly sound, moral, and good, simply on utilitarian grounds. 
But the world-movers, men who bring, as It were, a mass of magnetism into the world whose 
spirit works in hundreds and in thousands, whose life ignites others with a spiritual fire — such 
men, we always find, have that spiritual background. Their motive power came from religion. 
Religion is the greatest motive power for realising that infinite energy which is the birthright and 
nature of every man. In building up character in making for everything that is good and great, 
in bringing peace to others and peace to one's own self, religion is the highest motive power 
and, therefore, ought to be studied from that standpoint. Religion must be studied on a broader 
basis than formerly. All narrow limited, fighting ideas of religion have to go. All sect ideas and 
tribal or national ideas of religion must be given up. That each tribe or nation should have its 
own particular God and think that every other is wrong is a superstition that should belong to the 
past. All such ideas must be abandoned. 

As the human mind broadens, its spiritual steps broaden too. The time has already come 
when a man cannot record a thought without its reaching to all corners of the earth; by merely 
physical means, we have come into touch with the whole world; so the future religions of the 
world have to become as universal, as wide. 

The religious ideals of the future must embrace all that exists in the world and is good and great, 
and, at the same time, have infinite scope for future development. All that was good in the past 



must be preserved; and the doors must be kept open for future additions to the already existing 
store. Religions must also be inclusive and not look down with contempt upon one another 
because their particular ideals of God are different. In my life I have seen a great many spiritual 
men, a great many sensible persons, who did not believe in God at all that is to say, not in our 
sense of the word. Perhaps they understood God better than we can ever do. The Personal 
idea of God or the Impersonal, the Infinite, Moral Law, or the Ideal Man — these all have to 
come under the definition of religion. And when religions have become thus broadened, their 
power for good will have increased a hundredfold. Religions, having tremendous power in them, 
have often done more injury to the world than good, simply on account of their narrowness and 
limitations. 

Even at the present time we find many sects and societies, with almost the same ideas, fighting 
each other, because one does not want to set forth those ideas in precisely the same way 
as another. Therefore, religions will have to broaden. Religious ideas will have to become 
universal, vast, and infinite; and then alone we shall have the fullest play of religion, for the 
power of religion has only just begun to manifest in the world. It is sometimes said that religions 
are dying out, that spiritual ideas are dying out of the world. To me it seems that they have just 
begun to grow. The power of religion, broadened and purified, is going to penetrate every part of 
human life. So long as religion was in the hands of a chosen few or of a body of priests, it was 
in temples, churches, books, dogmas, ceremonials, forms, and rituals. But when we come to the 
real, spiritual, universal concept, then, and then alone religion will become real and living; it will 
come into our very nature, live in our every movement, penetrate every pore of our society, and 
be infinitely more a power for good than it has ever been before. 

What is needed is a fellow-feeling between the different types of religion, seeing that they all 
stand or fall together, a fellow-feeling which springs from mutual esteem and mutual respect, 
and not the condescending, patronising, niggardly expression of goodwill, unfortunately in 
vogue at the present time with many. And above all, this is needed between types of religious 
expression coming from the study of mental phenomena — unfortunately, even now laying 
exclusive claim to the name of religion — and those expressions of religion whose heads, as it 
were, are penetrating more into the secrets of heaven though their feet are clinging to earth, I 
mean the so-called materialistic sciences. 

To bring about this harmony, both will have to make concessions, sometimes very large, nay 
more, sometimes painful, but each will find itself the better for the sacrifice and more advanced 
in truth. And in the end, the knowledge which is confined within the domain of time and space 
will meet and become one with that which is beyond them both, where the mind and senses 
cannot reach — the Absolute, the Infinite, the One without a second. 



CHAPTER II 
THE REAL NATURE OF MAN 

( Delivered in London ) 

Great is the tenacity with which man clings to the senses. Yet, however substantial he may think 
the external world in which he lives and moves, there comes a time in the lives of individuals 
and of races when, involuntarily, they ask, "Is this real?" To the person who never finds a 
moment to question the credentials of his senses, whose every moment is occupied with some 
sort of sense-enjoyment — even to him death comes, and he also is compelled to ask, "Is this 
real?" Religion begins with this question and ends with its answer. Even in the remote past, 
where recorded history cannot help us, in the mysterious light of mythology, back in the dim 
twilight of civilisation, we find the same question was asked, "What becomes of this? What is 
real?" 

One of the most poetical of the Upanishads, the Katha Upanishad, begins with the 
inquiry: "When a man dies, there is a dispute. One party declares that he has gone for ever, 
the other insists that he is still living. Which is true?" Various answers have been given. The 
whole sphere of metaphysics, philosophy, and religion is really filled with various answers to 
this question. At the same time, attempts have been made to suppress it, to put a stop to the 
unrest of mind which asks, "What is beyond? What is real?" But so long as death remains, all 
these attempts at suppression will always prove to be unsuccessful. We may talk about seeing 
nothing beyond and keeping all our hopes and aspirations confined to the present moment, 
and struggle hard not to think of anything beyond the world of senses; and, perhaps, everything 
outside helps to keep us limited within its narrow bounds. The whole world may combine to 
prevent us from broadening out beyond the present. Yet, so long as there is death, the question 
must come again and again, "Is death the end of all these things to which we are clinging, as 
if they were the most real of all realities, the most substantial of all substances?" The world 
vanishes in a moment and is gone. Standing on the brink of a precipice beyond which is the 
infinite yawning chasm, every mind, however hardened, is bound to recoil and ask, "Is this 
real?" The hopes of a lifetime, built up little by little with all the energies of a great mind, vanish 
in a second. Are they real? This question must be answered. Time never lessens its power; on 
the other hand, it adds strength to it. 

Then there is the desire to be happy. We run after everything to make ourselves happy; we 
pursue our mad career in the external world of senses. If you ask the young man with whom 
life is successful, he will declare that it is real; and he really thinks so. Perhaps, when the same 
man grows old and finds fortune ever eluding him, he will then declare that it is fate. He finds at 
last that his desires cannot be fulfilled. Wherever he goes, there is an adamantine wall beyond 
which he cannot pass. Every sense-activity results in a reaction. Everything is evanescent. 
Enjoyment, misery, luxury, wealth, power, and poverty, even life itself, are all evanescent. 

Two positions remain to mankind. One is to believe with the nihilists that all is nothing, that we 
know nothing, that we can never know anything either about the future, the past, or even the 
present. For we must remember that he who denies the past and the future and wants to stick 
to the present is simply a madman. One may as well deny the father and mother and assert the 



child. It would be equally logical. To deny the past and future, the present must inevitably be 
denied also. This is one position, that of the nihilists. I have never seen a man who could really 
become a nihilist for one minute. It is very easy to talk. 

Then there is the other position — to seek for an explanation, to seek for the real, to discover in 
the midst of this eternally changing and evanescent world whatever is real. In this body which is 
an aggregate of molecules of matter, is there anything which is real? This has been the search 
throughout the history of the, human mind. In the very oldest times, we often find glimpses of 
light coming into men's minds. We find man, even then, going a step beyond this body, finding 
something which is not this external body, although very much like it, much more complete, 
much more perfect, and which remains even when this body is dissolved. We read in the hymns 
of the Rig-Veda, addressed to the God of Fire who is burning a dead body, "Carry him, O Fire, 
in your arms gently, give him a perfect body, a bright body, carry him where the fathers live, 
where there is no more sorrow, where there is no more death." The same idea you will find 
present in every religion. And we get another idea with it. It is a significant fact that all religions, 
without one exception, hold that man is a degeneration of what he was, whether they clothe this 
in mythological words, or in the clear language of philosophy, or in the beautiful expressions of 
poetry. This is the one fact that comes out of every scripture and of every mythology that the 
man that is, is a degeneration of what he was. This is the kernel of truth within the story of 
Adam's fall in the Jewish scripture. This is again and again repeated in the scriptures of the 
Hindus; the dream of a period which they call the Age of Truth, when no man died unless he 
wished to die, when he could keep his body as long as he liked, and his mind was pure and 
strong. There was no evil and no misery; and the present age is a corruption of that state of 
perfection. Side by side with this, we find the story of the deluge everywhere. That story itself is 
a proof that this present age is held to be a corruption of a former age by every religion. It went 
on becoming more and more corrupt until the deluge swept away a large portion of mankind, 
and again the ascending series began. It is going up slowly again to reach once more that early 
state of purity. You are all aware of the story of the deluge in the Old Testament. The same 
story was current among the ancient Babylonians, the Egyptians, the Chinese, and the Hindus. 
Manu, a great ancient sage, was praying on the bank of the Ganga, when a little minnow came 
to him for protection, and he put it into a pot of water he had before him. "What do you want?" 
asked Manu. The little minnow declared he was pursued by a bigger fish and wanted protection. 
Manu carried the little fish to his home, and in the morning he had become as big as the pot and 
said, "I cannot live in this pot any longer". Manu put him in a tank, and the next day he was as 
big as the tank and declared he could not live there any more. So Manu had to take him to a 
river, and in the morning the fish filled the river. Then Manu put him in the ocean, and he 
declared, "Manu, I am the Creator of the universe. I have taken this form to come and warn you 
that I will deluge the world. You build an ark and in it put a pair of every kind of animal, and let 
your family enter the ark, and there will project out of the water my horn. Fasten the ark to it; 
and when the deluge subsides, come out and people the earth." So the world was deluged, and 
Manu saved his own family and two of every kind of animal and seeds of every plant. When the 
deluge subsided, he came and peopled the world; and we are all called "man", because we are 
the progeny of Manu. 

Now, human language is the attempt to express the truth that is within. I am fully persuaded that 
a baby whose language consists of unintelligible sounds is attempting to express the highest 
philosophy, only the baby has not the organs to express it nor the means. The difference 
between the language of the highest philosophers and the utterances of babies is one of 
degree and not of kind. What you call the most correct, systematic, mathematical language of 
the present time, and the hazy, mystical, mythological languages of the ancients, differ only in 
degree. All of them have a grand idea behind, which is, as it were, struggling to express itself; 



and often behind these ancient mythologies are nuggets of truth; and often, I am sorry to say, 
behind the fine, polished phrases of the moderns is arrant trash. So, we need not throw a thing 
overboard because it is clothed in mythology, because it does not fit in with the notions of Mr. 
So-and-so or Mrs. So-and-so of modern times. If people should laugh at religion because most 
religions declare that men must believe in mythologies taught by such and such a prophet, they 
ought to laugh more at these moderns. In modern times, if a man quotes a Moses or a Buddha 
or a Christ, he is laughed at; but let him give the name of a Huxley, a Tyndall, or a Darwin, and 
it is swallowed without salt. "Huxley has said it", that is enough for many. We are free from 
superstitions indeed! That was a religious superstition, and this a scientific superstition; only, in 
and through that superstition came life-giving ideas of spirituality; in and through this modern 
superstition come lust and greed. That superstition was worship of God, and this superstition is 
worship of filthy lucre, of fame or power. That is the difference. 

To return to mythology. Behind all these stories we find one idea standing supreme — that 
man is a degeneration of what he was. Coming to the present times, modern research seems 
to repudiate this position absolutely. Evolutionists seem to contradict entirely this assertion. 
According to them, man is the evolution of the mollusc; and, therefore, what mythology states 
cannot be true. There is in India, however, a mythology which is able to reconcile both these 
positions. The Indian mythology has a theory of cycles, that all progression is in the form of 
waves. Every wave is attended by a fall, and that by a rise the next moment, that by a fall in the 
next, and again another rise The motion is in cycles. Certainly it is true, even on the grounds 
of modern research, that man cannot be simply an evolution. Every evolution presupposes an 
involution. The modern scientific man will tell you that you can only get the amount of energy 
out of a machine which you have previously put into it. Something cannot be produced out 
of nothing. If a man is an evolution of the mollusc, then the perfect man — the Buddha-man, 
the Christ-man — was involved in the mollusc. If it is not so, whence come these gigantic 
personalities? Something cannot come out of nothing. Thus we are in the position of reconciling 
the scriptures with modern light. That energy which manifests itself slowly through various 
stages until it becomes the perfect man, cannot come out of nothing. It existed somewhere; 
and if the mollusc or the protoplasm is the first point to which you can trace it, that protoplasm, 
somehow or other, must have contained the energy. 

There is a great discussion going on as to whether the aggregate of materials we call the 
body is the cause of manifestation of the force we call the soul, thought, etc., or whether it is 
the thought that manifests this body. The religions of the world of course hold that the force 
called thought manifests the body, and not the reverse. There are schools of modern thought 
which hold that what we call thought is simply the outcome of the adjustment of the parts of the 
machine which we call body. Taking the second position that the soul or the mass of thought, 
or however you may call it, is the outcome of this machine, the outcome of the chemical 
and physical combinations of matter making up the body and brain, leaves the question 
unanswered. What makes the body? What force combines the molecules into the body form? 
What force is there which takes up material from the mass of matter around and forms my body 
one way, another body another way, and so on? What makes these infinite distinctions? To 
say that the force called soul is the outcome of the combinations of the molecules of the body 
is putting the cart before the horse. How did the combinations come; where was the force to 
make them? If you say that some other force was the cause of these combinations, and soul 
was the outcome of that matter, and that soul — which combined a certain mass of matter — 
was itself the result of the combinations, it is no answer. That theory ought to be taken which 
explains most of the facts, if not all, and that without contradicting other existing theories. It is 
more logical to say that the force which takes up the matter and forms the body is the same 
which manifests through that body. To say, therefore, that the thought forces manifested by the 



body are the outcome of the arrangement of molecules and have no independent existence has 
no meaning; neither can force evolve out of matter. Rather it is possible to demonstrate that 
what we call matter does not exist at all. It is only a certain state of force. Solidity, hardness, or 
any other state of matter can be proved to be the result of motion. Increase of vortex motion 
imparted to fluids gives them the force of solids. A mass of air in vortex motion, as in a tornado, 
becomes solid-like and by its impact breaks or cuts through solids. A thread of a spider's web, 
if it could be moved at almost infinite velocity, would be as strong as an iron chain and would 
cut through an oak tree. Looking at it in this way, it would be easier to prove that what we call 
matter does not exist. But the other way cannot be proved. 

What is the force which manifests itself through the body? It is obvious to all of us, whatever 
that force be, that it is taking particles up, as it were, and manipulating forms out of them — the 
human body. None else comes here to manipulate bodies for you and me. I never saw anybody 
eat food for me. I have to assimilate it, manufacture blood and bones and everything out of 
that food. What is this mysterious force? Ideas about the future and about the past seem to be 
terrifying to many. To many they seem to be mere speculation. 

We will take the present theme. What is this force which is now working through us? We know 
how in old times, in all the ancient scriptures, this power, this manifestation of power, was 
thought to be a bright substance having the form of this body, and which remained even after 
this body fell. Later on, however, we find a higher idea coming — that this bright body did not 
represent the force. Whatsoever has form must be the result of combinations of particles and 
requires something else behind it to move it. If this body requires something which is not the 
body to manipulate it, the bright body, by the same necessity, will also require something other 
than itself to manipulate it. So, that something was called the soul, the Atman in Sanskrit. It was 
the Atman which through the bright body, as it were, worked on the gross body outside. The 
bright body is considered as the receptacle of the mind, and the Atman is beyond that It is not 
the mind even; it works the mind, and through the mind the body. You have an Atman, I have 
another each one of us has a separate Atman and a separate fine body, and through that we 
work on the gross external body. Questions were then asked about this Atman about its nature. 
What is this Atman, this soul of man which is neither the body nor the mind? Great discussions 
followed. Speculations were made, various shades of philosophic inquiry came into existence; 
and I shall try to place before you some of the conclusions that have been reached about this 
Atman. 

The different philosophies seem to agree that this Atman, whatever it be, has neither form nor 
shape, and that which has neither form nor shape must be omnipresent. Time begins with mind, 
space also is in the mind. Causation cannot stand without time. Without the idea of succession 
there cannot be any idea of causation. Time, space and causation, therefore, are in the mind, 
and as this Atman is beyond the mind and formless, it must be beyond time, beyond space, and 
beyond causation. Now, if it is beyond time, space, and causation, it must be infinite. Then 
comes the highest speculation in our philosophy. The infinite cannot be two. If the soul be 
infinite, there can be only one Soul, and all ideas of various souls — you having one soul, and I 
having another, and so forth — are not real. The Real Man, therefore, is one and infinite, the 
omnipresent Spirit. And the apparent man is only a limitation of that Real Man. In that sense the 
mythologies are true that the apparent man, however great he may be, is only a dim reflection 
of the Real Man who is beyond. The Real Man, the Spirit, being beyond cause and effect, not 
bound by time and space, must, therefore, be free. He was never bound, and could not be 
bound. The apparent man, the reflection, is limited by time, space, and causation, and is, 
therefore, bound. Or in the language of some of our philosophers, he appears to be bound, but 
really is not. This is the reality in our souls, this omnipresence, this spiritual nature, this infinity. 



Every soul is infinite, therefore there is no question of birth and death. Some children were 
being examined. The examiner put them rather hard questions, and among them was this 
one: "Why does not the earth fall?" He wanted to evoke answers about gravitation. Most of the 
children could not answer at all; a few answered that it was gravitation or something. One bright 
little girl answered it by putting another question: "Where should it fall?" The question is 
nonsense. Where should the earth fall? There is no falling or rising for the earth. In infinite 
space there is no up or down; that is only in the relative. Where is the going or coming for the 
infinite? Whence should it come and whither should it go? 

Thus, when people cease to think of the past or future, when they give up the idea of body, 
because the body comes and goes and is limited, then they have risen to a higher ideal. The 
body is not the Real Man, neither is the mind, for the mind waxes and wanes. It is the Spirit 
beyond, which alone can live for ever. The body and mind are continually changing, and are, in 
fact, only names of series of changeful phenomena, like rivers whose waters are in a constant 
state of flux, yet presenting the appearance of unbroken streams. Every particle in this body is 
continually changing; no one has the same body for many minutes together, and yet we think of 
it as the same body. So with the mind; one moment it is happy, another moment unhappy; one 
moment strong, another weak; an ever-changing whirlpool. That cannot be the Spirit which is 
infinite. Change can only be in the limited. To say that the infinite changes in any way is absurd; 
it cannot be. You can move and I can move, as limited bodies; every particle in this universe 
is in a constant state of flux, but taking the universe as a unit, as one whole, it cannot move, 
it cannot change. Motion is always a relative thing. I move in relation to something else. Any 
particle in this universe can change in relation to any other particle; but take the whole universe 
as one, and in relation to what can it move? There is nothing besides it. So this infinite Unit is 
unchangeable, immovable, absolute, and this is the Real Man. Our reality, therefore, consists in 
the Universal and not in the limited. These are old delusions, however comfortable they are, to 
think that we are little limited beings, constantly changing. People are frightened when they are 
told that they are Universal Being, everywhere present. Through everything you work, through 
every foot you move, through every lip you talk, through every heart you feel. 

People are frightened when they are told this. They will again and again ask you if they are 
not going to keep their individuality. What is individuality? I should like to see it. A baby has 
no moustache; when he grows to be a man, perhaps he has a moustache and beard. His 
individuality would be lost, if it were in the body. If I lose one eye, or if I lose one of my hands, 
my individuality would be lost if it were in the body. Then, a drunkard should not give up drinking 
because he would lose his individuality. A thief should not be a good man because he would 
thereby lose his individuality. No man ought to change his habits for fear of this. There is no 
individuality except in the Infinite. That is the only condition which does not change. Everything 
else is in a constant state of flux. Neither can individuality be in memory. Suppose, on account 
of a blow on the head I forget all about my past; then, I have lost all individuality; I am gone. I do 
not remember two or three years of my childhood, and if memory and existence are one, then 
whatever I forget is gone. That part of my life which I do not remember, I did not live. That is a 
very narrow idea of individuality. 

We are not individuals yet. We are struggling towards individuality, and that is the Infinite, that is 
the real nature of man. He alone lives whose life is in the whole universe, and the more we 
concentrate our lives on limited things, the faster we go towards death. Those moments alone 
we live when our lives are in the universe, in others; and living this little life is death, simply 
death, and that is why the fear of death comes. The fear of death can only be conquered when 
man realises that so long as there is one life in this universe, he is living. When he can say, "I 
am in everything, in everybody, I am in all lives, I am the universe," then alone comes the state 



of fearlessness. To talk of immortality in constantly changing things is absurd. Says an old 
Sanskrit philosopher: It is only the Spirit that is the individual, because it is infinite. No infinity 
can be divided; infinity cannot be broken into pieces. It is the same one, undivided unit for ever, 
and this is the individual man, the Real Man. The apparent man is merely a struggle to express, 
to manifest this individuality which is beyond; and evolution is not in the Spirit. These changes 
which are going on — the wicked becoming good, the animal becoming man, take them in 
whatever way you like — are not in the Spirit. They are evolution of nature and manifestation of 
Spirit. Suppose there is a screen hiding you from me, in which there is a small hole through 
which I can see some of the faces before me, just a few faces. Now suppose the hole begins to 
grow larger and larger, and as it does so, more and more of the scene before me reveals itself 
and when at last the whole screen has disappeared, I stand face to face with you all. You did 
not change at all in this case; it was the hole that was evolving, and you were gradually 
manifesting yourselves. So it is with the Spirit. No perfection is going to be attained. You are 
already free and perfect. What are these ideas of religion and God and searching for the 
hereafter? Why does man look for a God? Why does man, in every nation, in every state of 
society, want a perfect ideal somewhere, either in man, in God, or elsewhere? Because that 
idea is within you. It was your own heart beating and you did not know; you were mistaking it for 
something external. It is the God within your own self that is propelling you to seek for Him, to 
realise Him. After long searches here and there, in temples and in churches, in earths and in 
heavens, at last you come back, completing the circle from where you started, to your own soul 
and find that He for whom you have been seeking all over the world, for whom you have been 
weeping and praying in churches and temples, on whom you were looking as the mystery of all 
mysteries shrouded in the clouds, is nearest of the near, is your own Self, the reality of your life, 
body, and soul. That is your own nature. Assert it, manifest it. Not to become pure, you are pure 
already. You are not to be perfect, you are that already. Nature is like that screen which is 
hiding the reality beyond. Every good thought that you think or act upon is simply tearing the 
veil, as it were; and the purity, the Infinity, the God behind, manifests Itself more and more. 

This is the whole history of man. Finer and finer becomes the veil, more and more of the light 
behind shines forth, for it is its nature to shine. It cannot be known; in vain we try to know it. 
Were it knowable, it would not be what it is, for it is the eternal subject. Knowledge is a 
limitation, knowledge is objectifying. He is the eternal subject of everything, the eternal witness 
in this universe, your own Self. Knowledge is, as it were, a lower step, a degeneration. We are 
that eternal subject already; how can we know it? It is the real nature of every man, and he is 
struggling to express it in various ways; otherwise, why are there so many ethical codes? 
Where is the explanation of all ethics? One idea stands out as the centre of all ethical systems, 
expressed in various forms, namely, doing good to others. The guiding motive of mankind 
should be charity towards men, charity towards all animals. But these are all various 
expressions of that eternal truth that, "I am the universe; this universe is one." Or else, where is 
the reason? Why should I do good to my fellowmen? Why should I do good to others? What 
compels me? It is sympathy, the feeling of sameness everywhere. The hardest hearts feel 
sympathy for other beings sometimes. Even the man who gets frightened if he is told that this 
assumed individuality is really a delusion, that it is ignoble to try to cling to this apparent 
individuality, that very man will tell you that extreme self-abnegation is the centre of all morality. 
And what is perfect self-abnegation? It means the abnegation of this apparent self, the 
abnegation of all selfishness. This idea of "me and mine" — Ahamkara and Mamata — is the 
result of past Superstition, and the more this present self passes away, the more the real Self 
becomes manifest. This is true self-abnegation, the centre, the basis, the gist of all moral 
teaching; and whether man knows it or not the whole world is slowly going towards it, practicing 
it more or less. Only, the vast majority of mankind are doing it unconsciously. Let them do it 
consciously. Let then make the sacrifice, knowing that this "me and mine" is not the real Self, 



but only a limitation. But one glimpse Of that infinite reality which is behind — but one spark of 
that infinite fire that is the All — represents the present man; the Infinite is his true nature. 

What is the utility, the effect, the result, of this knowledge? In these days, we have to measure 
everything by utility — by how many pounds shillings, and pence it represents. What right 
has a person to ask that truth should be judged by the standard of utility or money? Suppose 
there is no utility, will it be less true? Utility is not the test of truth. Nevertheless, there is the 
highest utility in this. Happiness, we see is what everyone is seeking for, but the majority seek 
it in things which are evanescent and not real. No happiness was ever found in the senses. 
There never was a person who found happiness in the senses or in enjoyment of the senses. 
Happiness is only found in the Spirit. Therefore the highest utility for mankind is to find this 
happiness in the Spirit. The next point is that ignorance is the great mother of all misery, and the 
fundamental ignorance is to think that the Infinite weeps and cries, that He is finite. This is the 
basis of all ignorance that we, the immortal, the ever pure, the perfect Spirit, think that we are 
little minds, that we are little bodies; it is the mother of all selfishness. As soon as I think that I 
am a little body, I want to preserve it, to protect it, to keep it nice, at the expense of other bodies; 
then you and I become separate. As soon as this idea of separation comes, it opens the door to 
all mischief and leads to all misery. This is the utility that if a very small fractional part of human 
beings living today can put aside the idea of selfishness, narrowness, and littleness, this earth 
will become a paradise tomorrow; but with machines and improvements of material knowledge 
only, it will never be. These only increase misery, as oil poured on fire increases the flame all 
the more. Without the knowledge of the Spirit, all material knowledge is only adding fuel to fire, 
only giving into the hands of selfish man one more instrument to take what belongs to others, to 
live upon the life of others, instead of giving up his life for them. 

Is it practical ? — is another question. Can it be practised in modern society? Truth does not 
pay homage to any society, ancient or modern. Society has to pay homage to Truth or die. 
Societies should be moulded upon truth, and truth has not to adjust itself to society. If such a 
noble truth as unselfishness cannot be practiced in society, it is better for man to give up society 
and go into the forest. That is the daring man. There are two sorts of courage. One is the 
courage of facing the cannon. And the other is the courage of spiritual conviction. An Emperor 
who invaded India was told by his teacher to go and see some of the sages there. After a long 
search for one, he found a very old man sitting on a block of stone. The Emperor talked with him 
a little and became very much impressed by his wisdom. He asked the sage to go to his country 
with him. "No," said the sage, "I am quite satisfied with my forest here." Said the Emperor, "I will 
give you money, position, wealth. I am the Emperor of the world." "No," replied the man, "I don't 
care for those things." The Emperor replied, "If you do not go, I will kill you." The man smiled 
serenely and said, "That is the most foolish thing you ever said, Emperor. You cannot kill me. 
Me the sun cannot dry, fire cannot burn, sword cannot kill, for I am the birthless, the deathless, 
the ever-living omnipotent, omnipresent Spirit." This is spiritual boldness, while the other is the 
courage of a lion or a tiger. In the Mutiny of 1857 there was a Swami, a very great soul, whom a 
Mohammedan mutineer stabbed severely. The Hindu mutineers caught and brought the man to 
the Swami, offering to kill him. But the Swami looked up calmly and said, "My brother, thou art 
He, thou art He!" and expired. This is another instance. What good is it to talk of the strength of 
your muscles, of the superiority of your Western institutions, if you cannot make Truth square 
with your society, if you cannot build up a society into which the highest Truth will fit? What is 
the good of this boastful talk about your grandeur and greatness, if you stand up and say, "This 
courage is not practical." Is nothing practical but pounds, shillings, and pence? If so, why boast 
of your society? That society is the greatest, where the highest truths become practical. That is 
my opinion; and if society is; not fit for the highest truths, make it so; and the sooner, the better. 
Stand up, men and women, in this spirit, dare to believe in the Truth, dare to practice the Truth! 



The world requires a few hundred bold men and women. Practise that boldness which dares 
know the Truth, which dares show the Truth in life, which does not quake before death, nay, 
welcomes death, makes a man know that he, is the Spirit, that, in the whole universe, nothing 
can kill him. Then you will be free. Then you will know yours real Soul. "This Atman is first to be 
heard, then thoughts about and then meditated upon." 

There is a great tendency in modern times to talk too much of work and decry thought. Doing is 
very good, but that comes from thinking. Little manifestations of energy through the muscles are 
called work. But where there is no thought, there will be no work. Fill the brain, therefore, with 
high thoughts, highest ideals, place them day and night before you, and out of that will come 
great work. Talk not about impurity, but say that we are pure. We have hypnotised ourselves 
into this thought that we are little, that we are born, and that we are going to die, and into a 
constant state of fear. 

There is a story about a lioness, who was big with young, going about in search of prey; and 
seeing a flock of sheep, she jumped upon them. She died in the effort; and a little baby lion was 
born, motherless. It was taken care of by the sheep and the sheep brought it up, and it grew up 
with them, ate grass, and bleated like the sheep. And although in time it became a big, full- 
grown lion. It thought it was a sheep. One day another lion came in search of prey and was 
astonished to find that in the midst of this flock of sheep was a lion, fleeing like the sheep at the 
approach of danger. He tried to get near the sheep-lion, to tell it that it was not a sheep but a 
lion; but the poor animal fled at his approach. However, he watched his opportunity and one day 
found the sheep-lion sleeping. He approached it and said, "You are a lion." "I am a sheep," 
cried the other lion and could not believe the contrary but bleated. The lion dragged him towards 
a lake and said, "Look here, here is my reflection and yours." Then came the comparison. It 
looked at the lion and then at its own reflection, and in a moment came the idea that it was a 
lion. The lion roared, the bleating was gone. You are lions, you are souls, pure, infinite, and 
perfect. The might of the universe is within you. "Why weepest thou, my friend? There is neither 
birth nor death for thee. Why weepest thou? There is no disease nor misery for thee, but thou 
art like the infinite sky; clouds of various colours come over it, play for a moment, then vanish. 
But the sky is ever the same eternal blue." Why do we see wickedness? There was a stump of 
a tree, and in the dark, a thief came that way and said, "That is a policeman." A young man 
waiting for his beloved saw it and thought that it was his sweetheart. A child who had been told 
ghost stories took it for a ghost and began to shriek. But all the time it was the stump of a tree. 
We see the world as we are. Suppose there is a baby in a room with a bag of gold on the table 
and a thief comes and steals the gold. Would the baby know it was stolen? That which we have 
inside, we see outside. The baby has no thief inside and sees no thief outside. So with all 
knowledge. Do not talk of the wickedness of the world and all its sins. Weep that you are bound 
to see wickedness yet. Weep that you are bound to see sin everywhere, and if you want to help 
the world, do not condemn it. Do not weaken it more. For what is sin and what is misery, and 
what are all these, but the results of weakness? The world is made weaker and weaker every 
day by such teachings. Men are taught from childhood that they are weak and sinners. Teach 
them that they are all glorious children of immortality, even those who are the weakest in 
manifestation. Let positive, strong, helpful thought enter into their brains from very childhood. 
Lay yourselves open to these thoughts, and not to weakening and paralysing ones. Say to your 
own minds, "I am He, I am He." Let it ring day and night in your minds like a song, and at the 
point of death declare "I am He." That is the Truth; the infinite strength of the world is yours. 
Drive out the superstition that has covered your minds. Let us be brave. Know the Truth and 
practice the Truth. The goal may be distant, but awake, arise, and stop not till the goal is 
reached. 



CHAPTER III 
MAYA AND ILLUSION 

( Delivered in London ) 

Almost all of you have heard of the word Maya. Generally it is used, though incorrectly, to 
denote illusion, or delusion, or some such thing. But the theory of Maya forms one of the pillars 
upon which the Vedanta rests; it is, therefore, necessary that it should be properly understood. 
I ask a little patience of you, for there is a great danger of its being misunderstood. The 
oldest idea of Maya that we find in Vedic literature is the sense of delusion; but then the real 
theory had not been reached. We find such passages as, "Indra through his Maya assumed 
various forms." Here it is true the word Maya means something like magic, and we find various 
other passages, always taking the same meaning. The word Maya then dropped out of sight 
altogether. But in the meantime the idea was developing. Later, the question was raised: "Why 
can't we know this secret of the universe?" And the answer given was very significant: "Because 
we talk in vain, and because we are satisfied with the things of the senses, and because we are 
running after desires; therefore, we, as it were, cover the Reality with a mist." Here the word 
Maya is not used at all, but we get the idea that the cause of our ignorance is a kind of mist that 
has come between us and the Truth. Much later on, in one of the latest Upanishads, we find the 
word Maya reappearing, but this time, a transformation has taken place in it, and a mass of new 
meaning has attached itself to the word. Theories had been propounded and repeated, others 
had been taken up, until at last the idea of Maya became fixed. We read in the Shvetashvatara 
Upanishad, "Know nature to be Maya and the Ruler of this Maya is the Lord Himself." Coming 
to our philosophers, we find that this word Maya has been manipulated in various fashions, 
until we come to the great Shankaracharya. The theory of Maya was manipulated a little by 
the Buddhists too, but in the hands of the Buddhists it became very much like what is called 
Idealism, and that is the meaning that is now generally given to the word Maya. When the 
Hindu says the world is Maya, at once people get the idea that the world is an illusion. This 
interpretation has some basis, as coming through the Buddhistic philosophers, because there 
was one section of philosophers who did not believe in the external world at all. But the Maya of 
the Vedanta, in its last developed form, is neither Idealism nor Realism, nor is it a theory. It is a 
simple statement of facts — what we are and what we see around us. 

As I have told you before, the minds of the people from whom the Vedas came were intent 
upon following principles, discovering principles. They had no time to work upon details or to 
wait for them; they wanted to go deep into the heart of things. Something beyond was calling 
them, as it were, and they could not wait. Scattered through the Upanishads, we find that the 
details of subjects which we now call modern sciences are often very erroneous, but, at the 
same time, their principles are correct. For instance, the idea of ether, which is one of the 
latest theories of modern science, is to be found in our ancient literature in forms much more 
developed than is the modern scientific theory of ether today, but it was in principle. When they 
tried to demonstrate the workings of that principle, they made many mistakes. The theory of the 
all-pervading life principle, of which all life in this universe is but a differing manifestation, was 
understood in Vedic times; it is found in the Brahmanas. There is a long hymn in the Samhitas 
in praise of Prana of which all life is but a manifestation. By the by, it may interest some of you 
to know that there are theories in the Vedic philosophy about the origin of life on this earth 



very similar to those which have been advanced by some modern European scientists. You, of 
course, all know that there is a theory that life came from other planets. It is a settled doctrine 
with some Vedic philosophers that life comes in this way from the moon. 

Coming to the principles, we find these Vedic thinkers very courageous and wonderfully bold in 
propounding large and generalised theories. Their solution of the mystery of the universe, from 
the external world, was as satisfactory as it could be. The detailed workings of modern science 
do not bring the question one step nearer to solution, because the principles have failed. If the 
theory of ether failed in ancient times to give a solution of the mystery of the universe, working 
out the details of that ether theory would not bring us much nearer to the truth. If the theory of 
all-pervading life failed as a theory of this universe, it would not mean anything more if worked 
out in detail, for the details do not change the principle of the universe. What I mean is that in 
their inquiry into the principle, the Hindu thinkers were as bold, and in some cases, much bolder 
than the moderns. They made some of the grandest generalizations that have yet been 
reached, and some still remain as theories, which modern science has yet to get even as 
theories. For instance, they not only arrived at the ether theory, but went beyond and classified 
mind also as a still more rarefied ether. Beyond that again, they found a still more rarefied ether. 
Yet that was no solution, it did not solve the problem. No amount of knowledge of the external 
world could solve the problem. "But", says the scientist, "we are just beginning to know a little: 
wait a few thousand years and we shall get the solution." "No," says the Vedantist, for he has 
proved beyond all doubt that the mind is limited, that it cannot go beyond certain limits — 
beyond time, space, and causation. As no man can jump out of his own self, so no man can go 
beyond the limits that have been put upon him by the laws of time and space. Every attempt to 
solve the laws of causation, time, and space would be futile, because the very attempt would 
have to be made by taking for granted the existence of these three. What does the statement of 
the existence of the world mean, then? "This world has no existence." What is meant by that? It 
means that it has no absolute existence. It exists only in relation to my mind, to your mind, and 
to the mind of everyone else. We see this world with the five senses but if we had another 
sense, we would see in it something more. If we had yet another sense, it would appear as 
something still different. It has, therefore, no real existence; it has no unchangeable, immovable, 
infinite existence. Nor can it be called non-existence, seeing that it exists, and we slave to work 
in and through it. It is a mixture of existence and non-existence. 

Coming from abstractions to the common, everyday details of our lives, we find that our whole 
life is a contradiction, a mixture of existence and non-existence. There is this contradiction in 
knowledge. It seems that man can know everything, if he only wants to know; but before he 
has gone a few steps, he finds an adamantine wall which he cannot pass. All his work is in a 
circle, and he cannot go beyond that circle. The problems which are nearest and dearest to 
him are impelling him on and calling, day and night, for a solution, but he cannot solve them, 
because he cannot go beyond his intellect. And yet that desire is implanted strongly in him. Still 
we know that the only good is to be obtained by controlling and checking it. With every breath, 
every impulse of our heart asks us to be selfish. At the same time, there is some power beyond 
us which says that it is unselfishness alone which is good. Every child is a born optimist; he 
dreams golden dreams. In youth he becomes still more optimistic. It is hard for a young man 
to believe that there is such a thing as death, such a thing as defeat or degradation. Old age 
comes, and life is a mass of ruins. Dreams have vanished into the air, and the man becomes a 
pessimist. Thus we go from one extreme to another, buffeted by nature, without knowing where 
we are going. It reminds me of a celebrated song in the Lalita Vistara, the biography of Buddha. 
Buddha was born, says the book, as the saviour of mankind, but he forgot himself in the luxuries 
of his palace. Some angels came and sang a song to rouse him. And the burden of the whole 
song is that we are floating down the river of life which is continually changing with no stop and 



no rest. So are our lives, going on and on without knowing any rest. What are we to do? The 
man who has enough to eat and drink is an optimist, and he avoids all mention of misery, for it 
frightens him. Tell not to him of the sorrows and the sufferings of the world; go to him and tell 
that it is all good. "Yes, I am safe," says he. "Look at me! I have a nice house to live in. I do not 
fear cold and hunger; therefore do not bring these horrible pictures before me." But, on the other 
hand, there are others dying of cold and hunger. If you go and teach them that it is all good, 
they will not hear you. How can they wish others to be happy when they are miserable? Thus 
we are oscillating between optimism and pessimism. 

Then, there is the tremendous fact of death. The whole world is going towards death; everything 
dies. All our progress, our vanities, our reforms, our luxuries, our wealth, our knowledge, have 
that one end — death. That is all that is certain. Cities come and go, empires rise and fall, 
planets break into pieces and crumble into dust, to be blown about by the atmospheres of other 
planets. Thus it has been going on from time without beginning. Death is the end of everything. 
Death is the end of life, of beauty, of wealth, of power, of virtue too. Saints die and sinners die, 
kings die and beggars die. They are all going to death, and yet this tremendous clinging on 
to life exists. Somehow, we do not know why, we cling to life; we cannot give it up. And this is 
Maya. 

The mother is nursing a child with great care; all her soul, her life, is in that child. The child 
grows, becomes a man, and perchance becomes a blackguard and a brute, kicks her and beats 
her every day; and yet the mother clings to the child; and when her reason awakes, she covers 
it up with the idea of love. She little thinks that it is not love, that it is something which has got 
hold of her nerves, which she cannot shake off; however she may try, she cannot shake off the 
bondage she is in. And this is Maya. 

We are all after the Golden Fleece. Every one of us thinks that this will be his. Every reasonable 
man sees that his chance is, perhaps, one in twenty millions, yet everyone struggles for it. And 
this is Maya. 

Death is stalking day and night over this earth of ours, but at the same time we think we shall 
live eternally. A question was once asked of King Yudhishthira, "What is the most wonderful 
thing on this earth?" And the king replied, "Every day people are dying around us, and yet men 
think they will never die." And this is Maya. 

These tremendous contradictions in our intellect, in our knowledge, yea, in all the facts of our 
life face us on all sides. A reformer arises and wants to remedy the evils that are existing in a 
certain nation; and before they have been remedied, a thousand other evils arise in another 
place. It is like an old house that is falling; you patch it up in one place and the ruin extends to 
another. In India, our reformers cry and preach against the evils of enforced widowhood. In the 
West, non-marriage is the great evil. Help the unmarried on one side; they are suffering. Help 
the widows on the other; they are suffering. It is like chronic rheumatism: you drive from the 
head, and it goes to the body; you drive it from there, and it goes to the feet. Reformers arise 
and preach that learning, wealth, and culture should not be in the hands of a select few; and 
they do their best to make them accessible to all. These may bring more happiness to some, 
but, perhaps, as culture comes, physical happiness lessens. The knowledge of happiness 
brings the knowledge of unhappiness. Which way then shall we go? The least amount of 
material prosperity that we enjoy is causing the same amount of misery elsewhere. This is the 
law. The young, perhaps, do not see it clearly, but those who have lived long enough and those 
who have struggled enough will understand it. And this is Maya. These things are going on, 
day and night, and to find a solution of this problem is impossible. Why should it be so? It is 



impossible to answer this, because the question cannot be logically formulated. There is neither 
how nor why in fact; we only know that it is and that we cannot help it. Even to grasp it, to draw 
an exact image of it in our own mind, is beyond our power. How can we solve it then? 

Maya is a statement of the fact of this universe, of how it is going on. People generally get 
frightened when these things are told to them. But bold we must be. Hiding facts is not the 
way to find a remedy. As you all know, a hare hunted by dogs puts its head down and thinks 
itself safe; so, when we run into optimism; we do just like the hare, but that is no remedy. 
There are objections against this, but you may remark that they are generally from people who 
possess many of the good things of life. In this country (England) it is very difficult to become 
a pessimist. Everyone tells me how wonderfully the world is going on, how progressive; but 
what he himself is, is his own world. Old questions arise: Christianity must be the only true 
religion of the world because Christian nations are prosperous! But that assertion contradicts 
itself, because the prosperity of the Christian nation depends on the misfortune of non-Christian 
nations. There must be some to prey on. Suppose the whole world were to become Christian, 
then the Christian nations would become poor, because there would be no non-Christian 
nations for them to prey upon. Thus the argument kills itself. Animals are living upon plants, 
men upon animals and, worst of all, upon one another, the strong upon the weak. This is going 
on everywhere. And this is Maya. What solution do you find for this? We hear every day many 
explanations, and are told that in the long run all will be good. Taking it for granted that this is 
possible, why should there be this diabolical way of doing good? Why cannot good be done 
through good, instead of through these diabolical methods? The descendants of the human 
beings of today will be happy; but why must there be all this suffering now? There is no solution. 
This is Maya. 

Again, we often hear that it is one of the features of evolution that it eliminates evil, and this evil 
being continually eliminated from the world, at last only good will remain. That is very nice to 
hear, and it panders to the vanity of those who have enough of this world's goods, who have not 
a hard struggle to face every clay and are not being crushed under the wheel of this so-called 
evolution. It is very good and comforting indeed to such fortunate ones. The common herd may 
surfer, but they do not care; let them die, they are of no consequence. Very good, yet this 
argument is fallacious from beginning to end. It takes for granted, in the first place, that 
manifested good and evil in this world are two absolute realities. In the second place, it make, at 
still worse assumption that the amount of good is an increasing quantity and the amount of evil 
is a decreasing quantity. So, if evil is being eliminated in this way by what they call evolution, 
there will come a time when all this evil will be eliminated and what remains will be all good. 
Very easy to say, but can it be proved that evil is a lessening quantity? Take, for instance, the 
man who lives in a forest, who does not know how to cultivate the mind, cannot read a book, 
has not heard of such a thing as writing. If he is severely wounded, he is soon all right again; 
while we die if we get a scratch. Machines are making things cheap, making for progress and 
evolution, but millions are crushed, that one may become rich; while one becomes rich, 
thousands at the same time become poorer and poorer, and whole masses of human beings 
are made slaves. That way it is going on. The animal man lives in the senses. If he does not get 
enough to eat, he is miserable; or if something happens to his body, he is miserable. In the 
senses both his misery and his happiness begin and end. As soon as this man progresses, as 
soon as his horizon of happiness increases, his horizon of unhappiness increases 
proportionately. The man in the forest does not know what it is to be jealous, to be in the law 
courts, to pay taxes, to be blamed by society, to be ruled over day and night by the most 
tremendous tyranny that human diabolism ever invented, which pries into the secrets of every 
human heart. He does not know how man becomes a thousand times more diabolical than any 
other animal, with all his vain knowledge and with all his pride. Thus it is that, as we emerge out 



of the senses, we develop higher powers of enjoyment, and at the same time we have to 
develop higher powers of suffering too. The nerves become finer and capable off more 
suffering. In every society, we often find that the ignorant, common man, when abused, does 
not feel much, but he feels a good thrashing. But the gentleman cannot bear a single word of 
abuse; he has become so finely nerved. Misery has increased with his susceptibility to 
happiness. This does not go much to prove the evolutionist's case. As we increase our power to 
be happy, we also increase our power to suffer, and sometimes I am inclined to think that if we 
increase our power to become happy in arithmetical progression, we shall increase, on the 
other hand, our power to become miserable in geometrical progression. We who are 
progressing know that the more we progress, the more avenues are opened to pain as well as 
to pleasure. And this is Maya. 

Thus we find that Maya is not a theory for the explanation of the world; it is simply a statement 
of facts as they exist, that the very basis of our being is contradiction, that everywhere we have 
to move through this tremendous contradiction, that wherever there is good, there must also 
be evil, and wherever there is evil, there must be some good, wherever there is life, death must 
follow as its shadow, and everyone who smiles will have to weep, and vice versa. Nor can this 
state of things be remedied. We may verily imagine that there will be a place where there will 
be only good and no evil, where we shall only smile and never weep. This is impossible in the 
very nature of things; for the conditions will remain the same. Wherever there is the power of 
producing a smile in us, there lurks the power of producing tears. Wherever there is the power 
of producing happiness, there lurks somewhere the power of making us miserable. 

Thus the Vedanta philosophy is neither optimistic nor pessimistic. It voices both these views 
and takes things as they are. It admits that this world is a mixture of good and evil, happiness 
and misery, and that to increase the one, one must of necessity increase the other. There will 
never be a perfectly good or bad world, because the very idea is a contradiction in terms. The 
great secret revealed by this analysis is that good and bad are not two cut-and-dried, separate 
existences. There is not one thing in this world of ours which you can label as good and good 
alone, and there is not one thing in the universe which you can label as bad and bad alone. The 
very same phenomenon which is appearing to be good now, may appear to be bad tomorrow. 
The same thing which is producing misery in one, may produce happiness in another. The fire 
that burns the child, may cook a good meal for a starving man. The same nerves that carry 
the sensations of misery carry also the sensations of happiness. The only way to stop evil, 
therefore, is to stop good also; there is no other way. To stop death, we shall have to stop life 
also. Life without death and happiness without misery are contradictions, and neither can be 
found alone, because each of them is but a different manifestation of the same thing. What I 
thought to be good yesterday, I do not think to be good now. When I look back upon my life and 
see what were my ideals at different times, I final this to be so. At one time my ideal was to drive 
a strong pair of horses; at another time I thought, if I could make a certain kind of sweetmeat, I 
should be perfectly happy; later I imagined that I should be entirely satisfied if I had a wife and 
children and plenty of money. Today I laugh at all these ideals as mere childish nonsense. 

The Vedanta says, there must come a time when we shall look back and laugh at the ideals 
which make us afraid of giving up our individuality. Each one of us wants to keep this body 
for an indefinite time, thinking we shall be very happy, but there will come a time when we 
shall laugh at this idea. Now, if such be the truth, we are in a state of hopeless contradiction 
— neither existence nor non-existence, neither misery nor happiness, but a mixture of them. 
What, then, is the use of Vedanta and all other philosophies and religions? And, above all, what 
is the use of doing good work? This is a question that comes to the mind. If it is true that you 
cannot do good without doing evil, and whenever you try to create happiness there will always 



be misery, people will ask you, "What is the use of doing good?" The answer is in the first place, 
that we must work for lessening misery, for that is the only way to make ourselves happy. Every 
one of us finds it out sooner or later in our lives. The bright ones find it out a little earlier, and the 
dull ones a little later. The dull ones pay very dearly for the discovery and the bright ones less 
dearly. In the second place, we must do our part, because that is the only way of getting out of 
this life of contradiction. Both the forces of good and evil will keep the universe alive for us, until 
we awake from our dreams and give up this building of mud pies. That lesson we shall have to 
learn, and it will take a long, long time to learn it. 

Attempts have been made in Germany to build a system of philosophy on the basis that the 
Infinite has become the finite. Such attempts are also made in England. And the analysis of the 
position of these philosophers is this, that the Infinite is trying to express itself in this universe, 
and that there will come a time when the Infinite will succeed in doing so. It is all very well, and 
we have used the words Infinite and manifestation and expression, and so on, but philosophers 
naturally ask for a logical fundamental basis for the statement that the finite can fully express 
the Infinite. The Absolute and the Infinite can become this universe only by limitation. Everything 
must be limited that comes through the senses, or through the mind, or through the intellect; 
and for the limited to be the unlimited is simply absurd and can never be. The Vedanta, on the 
other hand, says that it is true that the Absolute or the Infinite is trying to express itself in the 
finite, but there will come a time when it will find that it is impossible, and it will then have to beat 
a retreat, and this beating a retreat means renunciation which is the real beginning of religion. 
Nowadays it is very hard even to talk of renunciation. It was said of me in America that I was a 
man who came out of a land that had been dead and buried for five thousand years, and talked 
of renunciation. So says, perhaps, the English philosopher. Yet it is true that that is the only path 
to religion. Renounce and give up. What did Christ say? "He that loseth his life for my sake shall 
find it." Again and again did he preach renunciation as the only way to perfection. There comes 
a time when the mind awakes from this long and dreary dream — the child gives up its play and 
wants to go back to its mother. It finds the truth of the statement, "Desire is never satisfied by 
the enjoyment of desires, it only increases the more, as fire, when butter is poured upon it." 

This is true of all sense-enjoyments, of all intellectual enjoyments, and of all the enjoyments of 
which the human mind is capable. They are nothing, they are within Maya, within this network 
beyond which we cannot go. We may run therein through infinite time and find no end, and 
whenever we struggle to get a little enjoyment, a mass of misery falls upon us. How awful is this! 
And when I think of it, I cannot but consider that this theory of Maya, this statement that it is all 
Maya, is the best and only explanation. What an amount of misery there is in this world; and if 
you travel among various nations you will find that one nation attempts to cure its evils by one 
means, and another by another. The very same evil has been taken up by various races, and 
attempts have been made in various ways to check it, yet no nation has succeeded. If it has 
been minimised at one point, a mass of evil has been crowded at another point. Thus it goes. 
The Hindus, to keep up a high standard of chastity in the race, have sanctioned child-marriage, 
which in the long run has degraded the race. At the same time, I cannot deny that this child- 
marriage makes the race more chaste. What would you have? If you want the nation to be more 
chaste, you weaken men and women physically by child-marriage. On the other hand, are you 
in England any better off? No, because chastity is the life of a nation. Do you not find in history 
that the first death-sign of a nation has been unchastity? When that has entered, the end of the 
race is in sight. Where shall we get a solution of these miseries then? If parents select 
husbands and wives for their children, then this evil is minimised. The daughters of India are 
more practical than sentimental. But very little of poetry remains in their lives. Again, if people 
select their own husbands and wives, that does not seem to bring much happiness. The Indian 
woman is generally very happy; there are not many cases of quarrelling between husband and 



wife. On the other hand in the United States, where the greatest liberty obtains, the number of 
unhappy homes and marriages is large. Unhappiness is here, there, and everywhere. What 
does it show? That, after all, not much happiness has been gained by all these ideals. We all 
struggle for happiness and as soon as we get a little happiness on one side, on the other side 
there comes unhappiness. 

Shall we not work to do good then? Yes, with more zest than ever, but what this knowledge 
will do for us is to break down our fanaticism. The Englishman will no more be a fanatic and 
curse the Hindu. He will learn to respect the customs of different nations. There will be less 
of fanaticism and more of real work. Fanatics cannot work, they waste three-fourths of their 
energy. It is the level-headed, calm, practical man who works. So, the power to work will 
increase from this idea. Knowing that this is the state of things, there will be more patience. 
The sight of misery or of evil will not be able to throw us off our balance and make us run after 
shadows. Therefore, patience will come to us, knowing that the world will have to go on in its 
own way. If, for instance, all men have become good, the animals will have in the meantime 
evolved into men, and will have to pass through the same state, and so with the plants. But 
only one thing is certain; the mighty river is rushing towards the ocean, and all the drops that 
constitute the stream will in time be drawn into that boundless ocean. So, in this life, with all 
its miseries and sorrows, its joys and smiles and tears, one thing is certain, that all things are 
rushing towards their goal, and it: is only a question of time when you and I, and plants and 
animals, and every particles of life that exists must reach the Infinite Ocean of Perfection, must 
attain to Freedom, to God. 

Let me repeat, once more, that the Vedantic position is neither pessimism nor optimism. It does 
not say that this world is all evil or all good. It says that our evil is of no less value than our good, 
and our good of no more value than our evil. They are bound together. This is the world, and 
knowing this, you work with patience. What for? Why should we work? If this is the state of 
things, what shall we do? Why not become agnostics? The modern agnostics also know there 
is no solution of this problem, no getting out of this evil of Maya, as we say in our language; 
therefore they tell us to be satisfied and enjoy life. Here, again, is a mistake, a tremendous 
mistake, a most illogical mistake. And it is this. What do you mean by life? Do you mean only 
the life of the senses? In this, every one of us differs only slightly from the brutes. I am sure that 
no one is present here whose life is only in the senses. Then, this present life means something 
more than that. Our feelings, thoughts, and aspirations are all part and parcel of our life; and 
is not the struggle towards the area, ideal, towards perfection, one of the most important 
components of what we call life? According to the agnostics, we must enjoy life as it is. But this 
life means, above all, this search after the ideal; the essence of life is going towards perfection. 
We must have that, and, therefore, we cannot be agnostics or take the world as it appears. The 
agnostic position takes this life, minus the ideal component, to be all that exists. And this, the 
agnostic claims, cannot be reached, therefore he must give up the search. This is what is called 
Maya — this nature, this universe. 

All religions are more or less attempts to get beyond nature — the crudest or the most 
developed, expressed through mythology or symbology, stories of gods, angels or demons, 
or through stories of saints or seers, great men or prophets, or through the abstractions of 
philosophy — all have that one object, all are trying to get beyond these limitations. In one 
word, they are all struggling towards freedom. Man feels, consciously or unconsciously, that he 
is bound; he is not what he wants to be. It was taught to him at the very moment he began to 
look around. That very instant he learnt that he was bound, and be also found that there was 
something in him which wanted to fly beyond, where the body could not follow, but which was 
as yet chained down by this limitation. Even in the lowest of religious ideas, where departed 



ancestors and other spirits — mostly violent and cruel, lurking about the houses of their friends, 
fond of bloodshed and strong drink — are worshipped, even there we find that one common 
factor, that of freedom. The man who wants to worship the gods sees in them, above all things, 
greater freedom than in himself. If a door is closed, he thinks the gods can get through it, and 
that walls have no limitations for them. This idea of freedom increases until it comes to the ideal 
of a Personal God, of which the central concept is that He is a Being beyond the limitation of 
nature, of Maya. I see before me, as it were, that in some of those forest retreats this question 
is being, discussed by those ancient sages of India; and in one of them, where even the oldest 
and the holiest fail to reach the solutions a young man stands up in the midst of them, and 
declares, "Hear, ye children of immortality, hear, who live in the highest places, I have found the 
way. By knowing Him who is beyond darkness we can go beyond death." 

This Maya is everywhere. It is terrible. Yet we have to work through it. The man who says that 
he will work when the world has become all good and then he will enjoy bliss is as likely to 
succeed as the man who sits beside the Ganga and says, "I will ford the river when all the water 
has run into the ocean." The way is not with Maya, but against it. This is another fact to learn. 
We are not born as helpers of nature, but competitors with nature. We are its bond-masters, but 
we bind ourselves down. Why is this house here? Nature did not build it. Nature says, go and 
live in the forest. Man says, I will build a house and fight with nature, and he does so. The whole 
history of humanity is a continuous fight against the so-called laws of nature, and man gains in 
the end. Coming to the internal world, there too the same fight is going on, this fight between 
the animal man and the spiritual man, between light and darkness; and here too man becomes 
victorious. He, as it were, cuts his way out of nature to freedom. 

We see, then, that beyond this Maya the Vedantic philosophers find something which is not 
bound by Maya; and if we can get there, we shall not be bound by Maya. This idea is in some 
form or other the common property of all religions. But, with the Vedanta, it is only the beginning 
of religion and not the end. The idea of a Personal God, the Ruler and Creator of this universe, 
as He has been styled, the Ruler of Maya, or nature, is not the end of these Vedantic ideas; it is 
only the beginning. The idea grows and grows until the Vedantist finds that He who, he thought, 
was standing outside, is he himself and is in reality within. He is the one who is free, but who 
through limitation thought he was bound. 



CHAPTER IV 

MAYA AND THE EVOLUTION OF THE CONCEPTION 

OF GOD 

( Delivered in London, 20th October 1896 ) 

We have seen how the idea of Maya, which forms, as it were, one of the basic doctrines of the 
Advaita Vedanta, is, in its germs, found even in the Samhitas, and that in reality all the ideas 
which are developed in the Upanishads are to be found already in the Samhitas in some form or 
other. Most of you are by this time familiar with the idea of Maya, and know that it is sometimes 
erroneously explained as illusion, so that when the universe is said to be Maya, that also has to 
be explained as being illusion. The translation of the word is neither happy nor correct. Maya is 
not a theory; it is simply a statement of facts about the universe as it exists, and to understand 
Maya we must go back to the Samhitas and begin with the conception in the germ. 

We have seen how the idea of the Devas came. At the same time we know that these Devas 
were at first only powerful beings, nothing more. Most of you are horrified when reading the old 
scriptures, whether of the Greeks, the Hebrews, the Persians, or others, to find that the ancient 
gods sometimes did things which, to us, are very repugnant. But when we read these books, 
we entirely forget that we are persons of the nineteenth century, and these gods were beings 
existing thousands of years ago. We also forget that the people who worshipped these gods 
found nothing incongruous in their characters, found nothing to frighten them, because they 
were very much like themselves. I may also remark that that is the one great lesson we have 
to learn throughout our lives. In judging others we always judge them by our own ideals. That 
is not as it should be. Everyone must be judged according to his own ideal, and not by that of 
anyone else. In our dealings with our fellow-beings we constantly labour under this mistake, and 
I am of opinion that the vast majority of our quarrels with one another arise simply from this one 
cause that we are always trying to judge others' gods by our own, others' ideals by our ideals, 
and others' motives by our motives. Under certain circumstances I might do a certain thing, 
and when I see another person taking the same course I think he has also the same motive 
actuating him, little dreaming that although the effect may be the same, yet many other causes 
may produce the same thing. He may have performed the action with quite a different motive 
from that which impelled me to do it. So in judging of those ancient religions we must not take 
the standpoint to which we incline, but must put ourselves into the position of thought and life of 
those early times. 

The idea of the cruel and ruthless Jehovah in the Old Testament has frightened many — but 
why? What right have they to assume that the Jehovah of the ancient Jews must represent 
the conventional idea of the God of the present day? And at the same time, we must not forget 
that there will come men after us who will laugh at our ideas of religion and God in the same 
way that we laugh at those of the ancients. Yet, through all these various conceptions runs 
the golden thread of unity, and it is the purpose of the Vedanta to discover this thread. "I am 
the thread that runs through all these various ideas, each one of which is; like a pearl," says 
the Lord Krishna; and it is the duty of Vedanta to establish this connecting thread, how ever 
incongruous or disgusting may seem these ideas when judged according to the conceptions 
of today. These ideas, in the setting of past times, were harmonious and not more hideous 



than our present ideas. It is only when we try to take them out of their settings and apply to our 
own present circumstances that the hideousness becomes obvious. For the old surroundings 
are dead and gone. Just as the ancient Jew has developed into the keen, modern, sharp Jew, 
and the ancient Aryan into the intellectual Hindu similarly Jehovah has grown, and Devas have 
grown. 

The great mistake is in recognising the evolution of the worshippers, while we do not 
acknowledge the evolution of the Worshipped. He is not credited with the advance that his 
devotees have made. That is to say, you and I, representing ideas, have grown; these gods 
also, as representing ideas, have grown. This may seem somewhat curious to you — that God 
can grow. He cannot. He is unchangeable. In the same sense the real man never grows. But 
man's ideas of God are constantly changing and expanding. We shall see later on how the real 
man behind each one of these human manifestations is immovable, unchangeable, pure, and 
always perfect; and in the same way the idea that we form of God is a mere manifestation, our 
own creation. Behind that is the real God who never changes, the ever pure, the immutable. 
But the manifestation is always changing revealing the reality behind more and more. When it 
reveals more of the fact behind, it is called progression, when it hides more of the fact behind, 
it is called retrogression. Thus, as we grow, so the gods grow. From the ordinary point of view, 
just as we reveal ourselves as we evolve, so the gods reveal themselves. 

We shall now be in a position to understand the theory of Maya. In all the regions of the world 
the one question they propose to discuss is this: Why is there disharmony in the universe? 
Why is there this evil in the universe? We do not find this question in the very inception of 
primitive religious ideas, because the world did not appear incongruous to the primitive man. 
Circumstances were not inharmonious for him; there was no dash of opinions; to him there 
was no antagonism of good and evil. There was merely a feeling in his own heart of something 
which said yea, and something which said nay. The primitive man was a man of impulse. He 
did what occurred to him, and tried to bring out through his muscles whatever thought came into 
his mind, and he never stopped to judge, and seldom tried to check his impulses. So with the 
gods, they were also creatures of impulse. Indra comes and shatters the forces of the demons. 
Jehovah is pleased with one person and displeased with another, for what reason no one knows 
or asks. The habit of inquiry had not then arisen, and whatever he did was regarded as right. 
There was no idea of good or evil. The Devas did many wicked things in our sense of the word; 
again and again Indra and other gods committed very wicked deeds, but to the worshippers of 
Indra the ideas of wickedness and evil did not occur, so they did not question them. 

With the advance of ethical ideas came the fight. There arose a certain sense in man, called 
in different languages and nations by different names. Call it the voice of God, or the result 
of past education, or whatever else you like, but the effect was this that it had a checking 
power upon the natural impulses of man. There is one impulse in our minds which says, do. 
Behind it rises another voice which says, do not. There is one set of ideas in our mind which is 
always struggling to get outside through the channels of the senses, and behind that, although 
it may be thin and weak, there is an infinitely small voice which says, do not go outside. The 
two beautiful Sanskrit words for these phenomena are Pravritti and Nivritti, "circling forward" 
and "circling inward". It is the circling forward which usually governs our actions. Religion begins 
with this circling inward. Religion begins with this "do not". Spirituality begins with this "do not". 
When the "do not" is not there, religion has not begun. And this "do not" came, causing men's 
ideas to grow, despite the fighting gods which they had worshipped. 

A little love awoke in the hearts of mankind. It was very small indeed, and even now it is not 
much greater. It was at first confined to a tribe embracing perhaps members of the same tribe; 



these gods loved their tribes and each god was a tribal god, the protector of that tribe. And 
sometimes the members of a tribe would think of themselves as the descendants of their god, 
just as the clans in different nations think that they are the common descendants of the man 
who was the founder of the clan. There were in ancient times, and are even now, some people 
who claim to be descendants not only of these tribal gods, but also of the Sun and the Moon. 
You read in the ancient Sanskrit books of the great heroic emperors of the solar and the lunar 
dynasties. They were first worshippers of the Sun and the Moon, and gradually came to think 
of themselves as descendants of the god of the Sun of the Moon, and so forth. So when these 
tribal ideas began to grow there came a little love, some slight idea of duty towards each other, 
a little social organisation. Then, naturally, the idea came: How can we live together without 
bearing and forbearing? How can one man live with another without having some time or other 
to check his impulses, to restrain himself, to forbear from doing things which his mind would 
prompt him to do? It is impossible. Thus comes the idea of restraint. The whole social fabric is 
based upon that idea of restraint, and we all know that the man or woman who has not learnt 
the great lesson of bearing and forbearing leads a most miserable life. 

Now, when these ideas of religion came, a glimpse of something higher, more ethical, dawned 
upon the intellect of mankind. The old gods were found to be incongruous — these boisterous, 
fighting, drinking, beef-eating gods of the ancients — whose delight was in the smell of burning 
flesh and libations of strong liquor. Sometimes Indra drank so much that he fell upon the ground 
and talked unintelligibly. These gods could no longer be tolerated. The notion had arisen of 
inquiring into motives, and the gods had to come in for their share of inquiry. Reason for such- 
and-such actions was demanded and the reason was wanting. Therefore man gave up these 
gods, or rather they developed higher ideas concerning them. They took a survey, as it were, of 
all the actions and qualities of the gods and discarded those which they could not harmonise, 
and kept those which they could understand, and combined them, labelling them with one 
name, Deva-deva, the God of gods. The god to be worshipped was no more a simple symbol of 
power; something more was required than that. He was an ethical god; he loved mankind, and 
did good to mankind. But the idea of god still remained. They increased his ethical significance, 
and increased also his power. He became the most ethical being in the universe, as well as 
almost almighty. 

But all this patchwork would not do. As the explanation assumed greater proportions, the 
difficulty which it sought to solve did the same. If the qualities of the god increased in 
arithmetical progression, the difficulty and doubt increased in geometrical progression. The 
difficulty of Jehovah was very little beside the difficulty of the God of the universe, and this 
question remains to the present day. Why under the reign of an almighty and all-loving God of 
the universe should diabolical things be allowed to remain? Why so much more misery than 
happiness, and so much more wickedness than good? We may shut our eyes to all these 
things, but the fact still remains that this world is a hideous world. At best, it is the hell of 
Tantalus. Here we are with strong impulses and stronger cravings for sense-enjoyments, but 
cannot satisfy them. There rises a wave which impels us forward in spite of our own will, and as 
soon as we move one step, comes a blow. We are all doomed to live here like Tantalus. Ideals 
come into our head far beyond the limit of our sense-ideals, but when we seek to express them, 
we cannot do so. On the other hand, we are crushed by the surging mass around us. Yet if I 
give up all ideality and merely struggle through this world, my existence is that of a brute, and I 
degenerate and degrade myself. Neither way is happiness. Unhappiness is the fate of those 
who are content to live in this world, born as they are. A thousand times greater misery is the 
fate of those who dare to stand forth for truth and for higher things and who dare to ask for 
something higher than mere brute existence here. These are facts; but there is no explanation 
— there cannot be any explanation. But the Vedanta shows the way out. You must bear in mind 



that I have to tell you facts that will frighten you sometimes, but if you remember what I say, 
think of it, and digest it, it will be yours, it will raise you higher, and make you capable of 
understanding and living in truth. 

Now, it is a statement of fact that this world is a Tantalus's hell, that we do not know anything 
about this universe, yet at the same time we cannot say that we do not know. I cannot say that 
this chain exists, when I think that I do not know it. It may be an entire delusion of my brain. I 
may be dreaming all the time. I am dreaming that I am talking to you, and that you are listening 
to me. No one can prove that it is not a dream. My brain itself may be a dream, and as to that 
no one has ever seen his own brain. We all take it for granted. So it is with everything. My own 
body I take for granted. At the same time I cannot say, I do not know. This standing between 
knowledge and ignorance, this mystic twilight, the mingling of truth and falsehood — and where 
they meet — no one knows. We are walking in the midst of a dream. Half sleeping, half waking, 
passing all our lives in a haze; this is the fate of everyone of us. This is the fate of all sense- 
knowledge. This is the fate of all philosophy, of all boasted science, of all boasted human 
knowledge. This is the universe. 

What you call matter, or spirit, or mind, or anything else you may like to call them, the fact 
remains the same: we cannot say that they are, we cannot say that they are not. We cannot 
say they are one, we cannot say they are many. This eternal play of light and darkness — 
indiscriminate, indistinguishable, inseparable — is always there. A fact, yet at the same time not 
a fact; awake and at the same time asleep. This is a statement of facts, and this is what is called 
Maya. We are born in this Maya, we live in it, we think in it, we dream in it. We are philosophers 
in it, we are spiritual men in it, nay, we are devils in this Maya, and we are gods in this Maya. 
Stretch your ideas as far as you can make them higher and higher, call them infinite or by any 
other name you please, even these ideas are within this Maya. It cannot be otherwise, and the 
whole of human knowledge is a generalization of this Maya trying to know it as it appears to be. 
This is the work of Nama-Rupa — name and form. Everything that has form, everything that 
calls up an idea in your mind, is within Maya; for everything that is bound by the laws of time, 
space, and causation is within Maya. 

Let us go back a little to those early ideas of God and see what became of them. We perceive 
at once that the idea of some Being who is eternally loving us — eternally unselfish and 
almighty, ruling this universe — could not satisfy. "Where is the just, merciful God?" asked the 
philosopher. Does He not see millions and millions of His children perish, in the form of men 
and animals; for who can live one moment here without killing others? Can you draw a breath 
without destroying thousands of lives? You live, because, millions die. Every moment of your 
life, every breath that you breathe, is death to thousands; every movement that you make is 
death to millions. Every morsel that you eat is death to millions. Why should they die? There is 
an old sophism that they are very low existences. Supposing they are — which is questionable, 
for who knows whether the ant is greater than the man, or the man than the ant — who can 
prove one way or the other? Apart from that question, even taking it for granted that these are 
very low beings, still why should they die? If they are low, they have more reason to live. Why 
not? Because they live more in the senses, they feel pleasure and pain a thousandfold more 
than you or I can do. Which of us eats a dinner with the same gusto as a dog or wolf? None, 
because our energies are not in the senses; they are in the intellect, in the spirit. But in animals, 
their whole soul is in the senses, and they become mad and enjoy things which we human 
beings never dream of, and the pain is commensurate with the pleasure. Pleasure and pain are 
meted out in equal measure. If the pleasure felt by animals is so much keener than that felt by 
man, it follows that the animals' sense of pain is as keen, if not keener than man's. So the fact 
is, the pain and misery men feel in dying is intensified a thousandfold in animals, and yet we 



kill them without troubling ourselves about their misery. This is Maya. And if we suppose there 
is a Personal God like a human being, who made everything, these so-called explanations and 
theories which try to prove that out of evil comes good are not sufficient. Let twenty thousand 
good things come, but why should they come from evil? On that principle, I might cut the throats 
of others because I want the full pleasure of my five senses. That is no reason. Why should 
good come through evil? The question remains to be answered, and it cannot be answered. The 
philosophy of India was compelled to admit this. 

The Vedanta was (and is) the boldest system of religion. It stopped nowhere, and it had one 
advantage. There was no body of priests who sought to suppress every man who tried to tell 
the truth. There was always absolute religious freedom. In India the bondage of superstition 
is a social one; here in the West society is very free. Social matters in India are very strict, but 
religious opinion is free. In England a man may dress any way he likes, or eat what he lilies — 
no one objects; but if he misses attending church, then Mrs. Grundy is down on him. He has 
to conform first to what society says on religion, and then he may think of the truth. In India, on 
the other hand, if a man dines with one who does not belong to his own caste, down comes 
society with all its terrible powers and crushes him then and there. If he wants to dress a little 
differently from the way in which his ancestor dressed ages ago, he is done for. I have heard 
of a man who was cast out by society because he went several miles to see the first railway 
train. Well, we shall presume that was not true! But in religion, we find atheists, materialists, 
and Buddhists, creeds, opinions, and speculations of every phase and variety, some of a most 
startling character, living side by side. Preachers of all sects go about reaching and getting 
adherents, and at the very gates of the temples of gods, the Brahmins — to their credit be it said 
— allow even the materialists to stand and give forth their opinions. 

Buddha died at a ripe old age. I remember a friend of mine, a great American scientist, who 
was fond of reading his life. He did not like the death of Buddha, because he was not crucified. 
What a false idea! For a man to be great he must be murdered! Such ideas never prevailed in 
India. This great Buddha travelled all over India, denouncing her gods and even the God of the 
universe, and yet he lived to a good old age. For eighty years he lived, and had converted half 
the country. 

Then, there were the Charvakas, who preached horrible things, the most rank, undisguised 
materialism, such as in the nineteenth century they dare not openly preach. These Charvakas 
were allowed to preach from temple to temple, and city to city, that religion was all nonsense, 
that it was priestcraft, that the Vedas were the words and writings of fools, rogues, and demons, 
and that there was neither God nor an eternal soul. If there was a soul, why did it not come 
back after death drawn by the love of wife and child. Their idea was that if there was a soul it 
must still love after death, and want good things to eat and nice dress. Yet no one hurt these 
Charvakas. 

Thus India has always had this magnificent idea of religious freedom, and you must remember 
that freedom is the first condition of growth. What you do not make free, will never grow. The 
idea that you can make others grow and help their growth, that you can direct and guide them, 
always retaining for yourself the freedom of the teacher, is nonsense, a dangerous lie which 
has retarded the growth of millions and millions of human beings in this world. Let men have the 
light of liberty. That is the only condition of growth. 

We, in India, allowed liberty in spiritual matters, and we have a tremendous spiritual power 
in religious thought even today. You grant the same liberty in social matters, and so have 
a splendid social organisation. We have not given any freedom to the expansion of social 



matters, and ours is a cramped society. You have never given any freedom in religious matters 
but with fire and sword have enforced your beliefs, and the result is that religion is a stunted, 
degenerated growth in the European mind. In India, we have to take off the shackles from 
society; in Europe, the chains must be taken from the feet of spiritual progress. Then will come 
a wonderful growth and development of man. If we discover that there is one unity running 
through all these developments, spiritual, moral, and social, we shall find that religion, in the 
fullest sense of the word, must come into society, and into our everyday life. In the light of 
Vedanta you will Understand that all sciences are but manifestations of religion, and so is 
everything that exists in this world. 

We see, then, that through freedom the sciences were built; and in them we have two sets of 
opinions, the one the materialistic and denouncing, and the other the positive and constructive. 
It is a most curious fact that in every society you find them. Supposing there is an evil in 
society, you will find immediately one group rise up and denounce it in vindictive fashion, 
which sometimes degenerates into fanaticism. There are fanatics in every society, and women 
frequently join in these outcries, because of their impulsive nature. Every fanatic who gets up 
and denounces something can secure a following. It is very easy to break down; a maniac can 
break anything he likes, but it would be hard for him to build up anything. These fanatics may 
do some good, according to their light, but much morn harm. Because social institutions are 
not made in a day, and to change them means removing the cause. Suppose there is an evil; 
denouncing it will not remove it, but you must go to work at the root. First find out the cause, 
then remove it, and the effect will be removed also. Mere outcry not produce any effect, unless 
indeed it produces misfortune. 

There are others who had sympathy in their hearts and who understood the idea that we must 
go deep into the cause, these were the great saints. One fact you must remember, that all 
the great teachers of the world have declared that they came not to destroy but to fulfil. Many 
times his has not been understood, and their forbearance has been thought to be an unworthy 
compromise with existing popular opinions. Even now, you occasionally hear that these 
prophets and great teachers were rather cowardly, and dared not say and do what they thought 
was right; but that was not so. Fanatics little understand the infinite power of love in the hearts 
of these great sages who looked upon the inhabitants of this world as their children. They were 
the real fathers, the real gods, filled with infinite sympathy and patience for everyone; they were 
ready to bear and forbear. They knew how human society should grow, and patiently slowly, 
surely, went on applying their remedies, not by denouncing and frightening people, but by gently 
and kindly leading them upwards step by step. Such were the writers of the Upanishads. They 
knew full well how the old ideas of God were not reconcilable with the advanced ethical ideas 
of the time; they knew full well that what the atheists were preaching contained a good deal of 
truth, nay, great nuggets of truth; but at the same time, they understood that those who wished 
to sever the thread that bound the beads, who wanted to build a new society in the air, would 
entirely fail. 

We never build anew, we simply change places; we cannot have anything new, we only change 
the position of things. The seed grows into the tree, patiently and gently; we must direct our 
energies towards the truth and fulfil the truth that exists, not try to make new truths. Thus, 
instead of denouncing these old ideas of God as unfit for modern times, the ancient sages 
began to seek out the reality that was in them. The result was the Vedanta philosophy, and out 
of the old deities, out of the monotheistic God, the Ruler of the universe, they found yet higher 
and higher ideas in what is called the Impersonal Absolute; they found oneness throughout the 
universe. 



He who sees in this world of manifoldness that One running through all, in this world of death he 
who finds that One Infinite Life, and in this world of insentience and ignorance he who finds that 
One Light and Knowledge, unto him belongs eternal peace. Unto none else, unto none else. 



CHAPTER V 
MAYA AND FREEDOM 

( Delivered in London, 22nd October 1896 ) 

"Trailing clouds of glory we come," says the poet. Not all of us come as trailing clouds of glory 
however; some of us come as trailing black fogs; there can be no question about that. But every 
one of us comes into this world to fight, as on a battlefield. We come here weeping to fight our 
way, as well as we can, and to make a path for ourselves through this infinite ocean of life; 
forward we go, having long ages behind us and an immense expanse beyond. So on we go, 
till death comes and takes us off the field — victorious or defeated, we do not know. And this is 
Maya. 

Hope is dominant in the heart of childhood. The whole world is a golden vision to the opening 
eyes of the child; he thinks his will is supreme. As he moves onward, at every step nature 
stands as an adamantine wall, barring his future progress. He may hurl himself against it again 
and again, striving to break through. The further he goes, the further recedes the ideal, till death 
comes, and there is release, perhaps. And this is Maya. 

A man of science rises, he is thirsting after knowledge. No sacrifice is too great, no struggle 
too hopeless for him. He moves onward discovering secret after secret of nature, searching 
out the secrets from her innermost heart, and what for? What is it all for? Why should we give 
him glory? Why should he acquire fame? Does not nature do infinitely more than any human 
being can do? — and nature is dull, insentient. Why should it be glory to imitate the dull, the 
insentient? Nature can hurl a thunderbolt of any magnitude to any distance. If a man can do 
one small part as much, we praise him and laud him to the skies. Why? Why should we praise 
him for imitating nature, imitating death, imitating dullness imitating insentience? The force of 
gravitation can pull to pieces the biggest mass that ever existed; yet it is insentient. What glory 
is there in imitating the insentient? Yet we are all struggling after that. And this is maya. 

The senses drag the human soul out. Man is seeking for pleasure and for happiness where it 
can never be found. For countless ages we are all taught that this is futile and vain, there is no 
happiness here. But we cannot learn; it is impossible for us to do so, except through our own 
experiences. We try them, and a blow comes. Do we learn then? Not even then. Like moths 
hurling themselves against the flame, we are hurling ourselves again and again into sense- 
pleasures, hoping to find satisfaction there. We return again and again with freshened energy; 
thus we go on, till crippled and cheated we die. And this is Maya. 

So with our intellect. In our desire to solve the mysteries of the universe, we cannot stop our 
questioning, we feel we must know and cannot believe that no knowledge is to be gained. A few 
steps, and there arises the wall of beginningless and endless time which we cannot surmount. A 
few steps, and there appears a wall of boundless space which cannot be surmounted, and the 
whole is irrevocably bound in by the walls of cause and effect. We cannot go beyond them. Yet 
we struggle, and still have to struggle. And this is Maya. 

With every breath, with every pulsation of the heart with every one of our movements, we think 



we are free, and the very same moment we are shown that we are not. Bound slaves, nature's 
bond-slaves, in body, in mind, in all our thoughts, in all our feelings. And this is Maya. 

There was never a mother who did not think her child was a born genius, the most extraordinary 
child that was ever born; she dotes upon her child. Her whole soul is in the child. The child 
grows up, perhaps becomes a drunkard, a brute, ill-treats the mother, and the more he ill-treats 
her, the more her love increases. The world lauds it as the unselfish love of the mother, little 
dreaming that the mother is a born slave, she cannot help it. She would a thousand times rather 
throw off the burden, but she cannot. So she covers it with a mass of flowers, which she calls 
wonderful love. And this is Maya. 

We are all like this in the world. A legend tells how once Narada said to Krishna, "Lord, show 
me Maya." A few days passed away, and Krishna asked Narada to make a trip with him towards 
a desert, and after walking for several miles, Krishna said, "Narada, I am thirsty; can you fetch 
some water for me?" "I will go at once, sir, and get you water." So Narada went. At a little 
distance there was a village; he entered the village in search of water and knocked at a door, 
which was opened by a most beautiful young girl. At the sight of her he immediately forgot that 
his Master was waiting for water, perhaps dying for the want of it. He forgot everything and 
began to talk with the girl. All that day he did not return to his Master. The next day, he was 
again at the house, talking to the girl. That talk ripened into love; he asked the father for the 
daughter, and they were married and lived there and had children. Thus twelve years passed. 
His father-in-law died, he inherited his property. He lived, as he seemed to think, a very happy 
life with his wife and children, his fields and his cattle and so forth. Then came a flood. One 
night the river rose until it overflowed its banks and flooded the whole village. Houses fell, men 
and animals were swept away and drowned, and everything was floating in the rush of the 
stream. Narada had to escape. With one hand be held his wife, and with the other two of his 
children; another child was on his shoulders, and he was trying to ford this tremendous flood. 
After a few steps he found the current was too strong, and the child on his shoulders fell and 
was borne away. A cry of despair came from Narada. In trying to save that child, he lost his 
grasp upon one of the others, and it also was lost. At last his wife, whom he clasped with all his 
might, was torn away by the current, and he was thrown on the bank, weeping and wailing in 
bitter lamentation. Behind him there came a gentle voice, "My child, where is the water? You 
went to fetch a pitcher of water, and I am waiting for you; you have been gone for quite half an 
hour." "Half an hour! " Narada exclaimed. Twelve whole years had passed through his mind, 
and all these scenes had happened in half an hour! And this is Maya. 

In one form or another, we are all in it. It is a most difficult and intricate state of things to 
understand. It has been preached in every country, taught everywhere, but only believed in 
by a few, because until we get the experiences ourselves we cannot believe in it. What does it 
show? Something very terrible. For it is all futile. Time, the avenger of everything, comes, and 
nothing is left. He swallows up the saint and the sinner, the king and the peasant, the beautiful 
and the ugly; he leaves nothing. Everything is rushing towards that one goal destruction. Our 
knowledge, our arts, our sciences, everything is rushing towards it. None can stem the tide, 
none can hold it back for a minute. We may try to forget it, in the same way that persons in a 
plague-striker city try to create oblivion by drinking, dancing, and other vain attempts, and so 
becoming paralysed. So we are trying to forget, trying to create oblivion by all sorts of sense- 
pleasures. And this is Maya. 

Two ways have been proposed. One method, which everyone knows, is very common, and that 
is: "It may be very true, but do not think of it. 'Make hay while the sun shines,' as the proverb 
says. It is all true, it is a fact, but do not mind it. Seize the few pleasures you can, do what 



little you can, do not look at tile dark side of the picture, but always towards the hopeful, the 
positive side." There is some truth in this, but there is also a danger. The truth is that it is a good 
motive power. Hope and a positive ideal are very good motive powers for our lives, but there 
is a certain danger in them. The danger lies in our giving up the struggle in despair. Such is 
the case with those who preach, "Take the world as it is, sit down as calmly and comfortably 
as you can and be contented with all these miseries. When you receive blows, say they are 
not blows but flowers; and when you are driven about like slaves, say that you are free. Day 
and night tell lies to others and to your own souls, because that is the only way to live happily." 
This is what is called practical wisdom, and never was it more prevalent in the world than in this 
nineteenth century; because never were harder blows hit than at the present time, never was 
competition keener, never were men so cruel to their fellow-men as now; and, therefore, must 
this consolation be offered. It is put forward in the strongest way at the present time; but it fails, 
as it always must fail. We cannot hide a carrion with roses; it is impossible. It would not avail 
long; for soon the roses would fade, and the carrion would be worse than ever before. So with 
our lives. We may try to cover our old and festering sores with cloth of gold, but there comes a 
day when the cloth of gold is removed, and the sore in all its ugliness is revealed. 

Is there no hope then? True it is that we are all slaves of Maya, born in Maya, and live in Maya. 
Is there then no way out, no hope? That we are all miserable, that this world is really a prison, 
that even our so-called trailing beauty is but a prison-house, and that even our intellects and 
minds are prison-houses, have been known for ages upon ages. There has never been a man, 
there has never been a human soul, who has not felt this sometime or other, however he may 
talk. And the old people feel it most, because in them is the accumulated experience of a whole 
life, because they cannot be easily cheated by the lies of nature. Is there no way out? We find 
that with all this, with this terrible fact before us, in the midst of sorrow and suffering, even in this 
world where life and death are synonymous, even here, there is a still small voice that is ringing 
through all ages, through every country, and in every heart: "This My Maya is divine, made up of 
qualities, and very difficult to cross. Yet those that come unto Me, cross the river of life." "Come 
unto Me all ye that labour and are heavy laden and I will give you rest." This is the voice that is 
leading us forward. Man has heard it, and is hearing it all through the ages. This voice comes to 
men when everything seems to be lost and hope has fled, when man's dependence on his own 
strength has been crushed down and everything seems to melt away between his fingers, and 
life is a hopeless ruin. Then he hears it. This is called religion. 

On the one side, therefore, is the bold assertion that this is all nonsense, that this is Maya, but 
along with it there is the most hopeful assertion that beyond Maya, there is a way out. On the 
other hand, practical men tell us, "Don't bother your heads about such nonsense as religion and 
metaphysics. Live here; this is a very bad world indeed, but make the best of it." Which put in 
plain language means, live a hypocritical, lying life, a life of continuous fraud, covering all sores 
in the best way you can. Go on putting patch after patch, until everything is lost, and you are a 
mass of patchwork. This is what is called practical life. Those that are satisfied with this 
patchwork will never come to religion. Religion begins with a tremendous dissatisfaction with the 
present state of things, with our lives, and a hatred, an intense hatred, for this patching up of 
life, an unbounded disgust for fraud and lies. He alone can be religious who dares say, as the 
mighty Buddha once said under the Bo-tree, when this idea of practicality appeared before him 
and he saw that it was nonsense, and yet could not find a way out. When the temptation came 
to him to give up his search after truth, to go back to the world and live the old life of fraud, 
calling things by wrong names, telling lies to oneself and to everybody, he, the giant, conquered 
it and said, "Death is better than a vegetating ignorant life; it is better to die on the battle-field 
than to live a life of defeat." This is the basis of religion. When a man takes this stand, he is on 
the way to find the truth, he is on the way to God. That determination must be the first impulse 



towards becoming religious. I will hew out a way for myself. I will know the truth or give up my 
life in the attempt. For on this side it is nothing, it is gone, it is vanishing every day. The 
beautiful, hopeful, young person of today is the veteran of tomorrow. Hopes and joys and 
pleasures will die like blossoms with tomorrow's frost. That is one side; on the other, there are 
the great charms of conquest, victories over all the ills of life, victory over life itself, the conquest 
of the universe. On that side men can stand. Those who dare, therefore, to struggle for victory, 
for truth, for religion, are in the right way; and that is what the Vedas preach: Be not in despair, 
the way is very difficult, like walking on the edge of a razor; yet despair not, arise, awake, and 
find the ideal, the goal. 

Now all these various manifestations of religion, in whatever shape and form they have come 
to mankind, have this one common central basis. It is the preaching of freedom, the way out 
of this world. They never came to reconcile the world and religion, but to cut the Gordian knot, 
to establish religion in its own ideal, and not to compromise with the world. That is what every 
religion preaches, and the duty of the Vedanta is to harmonise all these aspirations, to make 
manifest the common ground between all the religions of the world, the highest as well as the 
lowest. What we call the most arrant superstition and the highest philosophy really have a 
common aim in that they both try to show the way out of the same difficulty, and in most cases 
this way is through the help of someone who is not himself bound by the laws of nature in 
one word, someone who is free. In spite of all the difficulties and differences of opinion about 
the nature of the one free agent, whether he is a Personal God, or a sentient being like man, 
whether masculine, feminine, or neuter — and the discussions have been endless — the 
fundamental idea is the same. In spite of the almost hopeless contradictions of the different 
systems, we find the golden thread of unity running through them all, and in this philosophy, 
this golden thread has been traced revealed little by little to our view, and the first step to this 
revelation is the common ground that all are advancing towards freedom. 

One curious fact present in the midst of all our joys and sorrows, difficulties and struggles, is 
that we are surely journeying towards freedom. The question was practically this: "What is this 
universe? From what does it arise? Into what does it go?" And the answer was: "In freedom 
it rises, in freedom it rests, and into freedom it melts away." This idea of freedom you cannot 
relinquish. Your actions, your very lives will be lost without it. Every moment nature is proving 
us to be slaves and not free. Yet, simultaneously rises the other idea, that still we are free At 
every step we are knocked down, as it were, by Maya, and shown that we are bound; and yet at 
the same moment, together with this blow, together with this feeling that we are bound, comes 
the other feeling that we are free. Some inner voice tells us that we are free. But if we attempt 
to realise that freedom, to make it manifest, we find the difficulties almost insuperable Yet, in 
spite of that it insists on asserting itself inwardly, "I am free, I am free." And if you study all the 
various religions of the world you will find this idea expressed. Not only religion — you must not 
take this word in its narrow sense — but the whole life of society is the assertion of that one 
principle of freedom. All movements are the assertion of that one freedom. That voice has been 
heard by everyone, whether he knows it or not, that voice which declares, "Come unto Me all 
ye that labour and are heavy laden." It may not be in the same language or the same form of 
speech, but in some form or other, that voice calling for freedom has been with us. Yes, we are 
born here on account of that voice; every one of our movements is for that. We are all rushing 
towards freedom, we are all following that voice, whether we know it or not; as the children of 
the village were attracted by the music of the flute-player, so we are all following the music of 
the voice without knowing it. 

We are ethical when we follow that voice. Not only the human soul, but all creatures, from the 
lowest to the highest have heard the voice and are rushing towards it; and in the struggle are 



either combining with each other or pushing each other out of the way. Thus come competition, 
joys, struggles, life, pleasure, and death, and the whole universe is nothing but the result of this 
mad struggle to reach the voice. This is the manifestation of nature. 

What happens then? The scene begins to shift. As soon as you know the voice and understand 
what it is, the whole scene changes. The same world which was the ghastly battle-field of 
Maya is now changed into something good and beautiful. We no longer curse nature, nor say 
that the world is horrible and that it is all vain; we need no longer weep and wail. As soon as 
we understand the voice, we see the reassert why this struggle should be here, this fight, this 
competition, this difficulty, this cruelty, these little pleasures and joys; we see that they are 
in the nature of things, because without them there would be no going towards the voice, to 
attain which we are destined, whether we know it or not. All human life, all nature, therefore, is 
struggling to attain to freedom. The sun is moving towards the goal, so is the earth in circling 
round the sun, so is the moon in circling round the earth. To that goal the planet is moving, 
and the air is blowing. Everything is struggling towards that. The saint is going towards that 
voice — he cannot help it, it is no glory to him. So is the sinner. The charitable man is going 
straight towards that voice, and cannot be hindered; the miser is also going towards the same 
destination: the greatest worker of good hears the same voice within, and he cannot resist it, he 
must go towards the voice; so with the most arrant idler. One stumbles more than another, and 
him who stumbles more we call bad, him who stumbles less we call good. Good and bad are 
never two different things, they are one and the same; the difference is not one of kind, but of 
degree. 

Now, if the manifestation of this power of freedom is really governing the whole universe — 
applying that to religion, our special study — we find this idea has been the one assertion 
throughout. Take the lowest form of religion where there is the worship of departed ancestors 
or certain powerful and cruel gods; what is the prominent idea about the gods or departed 
ancestors? That they are superior to nature, not bound by its restrictions. The worshipper 
has, no doubt, very limited ideas of nature. He himself cannot pass through a wall, nor fly up 
into the skies, but the gods whom he worships can do these things. What is meant by that, 
philosophically? That the assertion of freedom is there, that the gods whom he worships are 
superior to nature as he knows it. So with those who worship still higher beings. As the idea of 
nature expands, the idea of the soul which is superior to nature also expands, until we come to 
what we call monotheism, which holds that there is Maya (nature), and that there is some Being 
who is the Ruler of this Maya. 

Here Vedanta begins, where these monotheistic ideas first appear. But the Vedanta philosophy 
wants further explanation. This explanation — that there is a Being beyond all these 
manifestations of Maya, who is superior to and independent of Maya, and who is attracting us 
towards Himself, and that we are all going towards Him — is very good, says the Vedanta, but 
yet the perception is not clear, the vision is dim and hazy, although it does not directly contradict 
reason. Just as in your hymn it is said, "Nearer my God to Thee," the same hymn would be 
very good to the Vedantin, only he would change a word, and make it, "Nearer my God to me." 
The idea that the goal is far off, far beyond nature, attracting us all towards it, has to be brought 
nearer and nearer, without degrading or degenerating it. The God of heaven becomes the God 
in nature, and the God in nature becomes the God who is nature, and the God who is nature 
becomes the God within this temple of the body, and the God dwelling in the temple of the body 
at last becomes the temple itself, becomes the soul and man — and there it reaches the last 
words it can teach. He whom the sages have been seeking in all these places is in our own 
hearts; the voice that you heard was right, says the Vedanta, but the direction you gave to the 
voice was wrong. That ideal of freedom that you perceived was correct, but you projected it 



outside yourself, and that was your mistake. Bring it nearer and nearer, until you find that it was 
all the time within you, it was the Self of your own self. That freedom was your own nature, and 
this Maya never bound you. Nature never has power over you. Like a frightened child you were 
dreaming that it was throttling you, and the release from this fear is the goal: not only to see it 
intellectually, but to perceive it, actualise it, much more definitely than we perceive this world. 
Then we shall know that we are free. Then, and then alone, will all difficulties vanish, then will all 
the perplexities of heart be smoothed away, all crookedness made straight, then will vanish the 
delusion of manifoldness and nature; and Maya instead of being a horrible, hopeless dream, as 
it is now will become beautiful, and this earth, instead of being a prison-house, will become our 
playground, and even dangers and difficulties, even all sufferings, will become deified and show 
us their real nature, will show us that behind everything, as the substance of everything, He is 
standing, and that He is the one real Self. 



CHAPTER VI 
THE ABSOLUTE AND MANIFESTATION 

( Delivered in London, 1896 ) 

The one question that is most difficult to grasp in understanding the Advaita philosophy, and 
the one question that will be asked again and again and that will always remain is: How has 
the Infinite, the Absolute, become the finite? I will now take up this question, and, in order to 
illustrate it, I will use a figure. 

Here is the Absolute (a), and this is the universe (b). The 
Absolute has become the universe. By this is not only meant the 
material world, but the mental world, the spiritual world — 
heavens and earths, and in fact, everything that exists. Mind is 
the name of a change, and body the name of another change, 
and so on, and all these changes compose our universe. This 
Absolute (a) has become the universe (b) by coming through 
time, space, and causation (c). This is the central idea of Advaita. 
Time, space, and causation are like the glass through which the 
Absolute is seen, and when It is seen on the lower side, It 
appears as the universe. Now we at once gather from this that in 
the Absolute there is neither time, space, nor causation. The idea 
of time cannot be there, seeing that there is no mind, no thought. 
The idea of space cannot be there, seeing that there is no 
external change. What you call motion and causation cannot exist 
where there is only One. We have to understand this, and 
impress it on our minds, that what we call causation begins after, if we may be permitted to say 
so, the degeneration of the Absolute into the phenomenal, and not before; that our will, our 
desire and all these things always come after that. I think Schopenhauer's philosophy makes a 
mistake in its interpretation of Vedanta, for it seeks to make the will everything. Schopenhauer 
makes the will stand in the place of the Absolute. But the absolute cannot be presented as will, 
for will is something changeable and phenomenal, and over the line, drawn above time, space, 
and causation, there is no change, no motion; it is only below the line that external motion and 
internal motion, called thought begin. There can be no will on the other side, and will therefore, 
cannot be the cause of this universe. Coming nearer, we see in our own bodies that will is not 
the cause of every movement. I move this chair; my will is the cause of this movement, and this 
will becomes manifested as muscular motion at the other end. But the same power that moves 
the chair is moving the heart, the lungs, and so on, but not through will. Given that the power is 
the same, it only becomes will when it rises to the plane of consciousness, and to call it will 
before it has risen to this plane is a misnomer. This makes a good deal of confusion in 
Schopenhauer's philosophy. 

A stone falls and we ask, why? This question is possible only on the supposition that nothing 
happens without a cause. I request you to make this very clear in your minds, for whenever we 
ask why anything happens, we are taking for granted that everything that happens must have a 
why, that is to say, it must have been preceded by something else which acted as the cause. 



[a) The Absolute 


to 


Time 


Space 


— ■ 


[b) The Universe 



This precedence and succession are what we call the law of causation. It means that everything 
in the universe is by turn a cause and an effect. It is the cause of certain things which come 
after it, and is itself the effect of something else which has preceded it. This is called the law of 
causation and is a necessary condition of all our thinking. We believe that every particle in the 
universe, whatever it be, is in relation to every other particle. There has been much discussion 
as to how this idea arose. In Europe, there have been intuitive philosophers who believed that it 
was constitutional in humanity, others have believed it came from experience, but the question 
has never been settled. We shall see later on what the Vedanta has to say about it. But first we 
have to understand this that the very asking of the question "why" presupposes that everything 
round us has been preceded by certain things and will be succeeded by certain other things. 
The other belief involved in this question is that nothing in the universe is independent, that 
everything is acted upon by something outside itself. Interdependence is the law of the whole 
universe. In asking what caused the Absolute, what an error we are making! To ask this 
question we have to suppose that the Absolute also is bound by something, that It is dependent 
on something; and in making this supposition, we drag the Absolute down to the level of the 
universe. For in the Absolute there is neither time, space, nor causation; It is all one. That which 
exists by itself alone cannot have any cause. That which is free cannot have any cause; else it 
would not be free, but bound. That which has relativity cannot be free. Thus we see the very 
question, why the Infinite became the finite, is an impossible one, for it is self-contradictory. 
Coming from subtleties to the logic of our common plane, to common sense, we can see this 
from another side, when we seek to know how the Absolute has become the relative. 
Supposing we knew the answer, would the Absolute remain the Absolute? It would have 
become relative. What is meant by knowledge in our common-sense idea? It is only something 
that has become limited by our mind, that we know, and when it is beyond our mind, it is not 
knowledge. Now if the Absolute becomes limited by the mind, It is no more Absolute; It has 
become finite. Everything limited by the mind becomes finite. Therefore to know the Absolute is 
again a contradiction in terms. That is why this question has never been answered, because if it 
were answered, there would no more be an Absolute. A God known is no more God; He has 
become finite like one of us. He cannot be known He is always the Unknowable One. 

But what Advaita says is that God is more than knowable. This is a great fact to learn. You must 
not go home with the idea that God is unknowable in the sense in which agnostics put it. For 
instance, here is a chair, it is known to us. But what is beyond ether or whether people exist 
there or not is possibly unknowable. But God is neither known nor unknowable in this sense. He 
is something still higher than known; that is what is meant by God being unknown and 
unknowable. The expression is not used in the sense in which it may be said that some 
questions are unknown ant unknowable. God is more than known. This chair is known, but God 
is intensely more than that because in and through Him we have to know this chair itself. He is 
the Witness, the eternal Witness of all knowledge. Whatever we know we have to know in and 
through Him. He is the Essence of our own Self. He is the Essence of this ego, this I and we 
cannot know anything excepting in and through that I. Therefore you have to know everything in 
and through the Brahman. To know the chair you have to know it in and through God. Thus God 
is infinitely nearer to us than the chair, but yet He is infinitely higher. Neither known, nor 
unknown, but something infinitely higher than either. He is your Self. "Who would live a second, 
who would breathe a second in this universe, if that Blessed One were not filling it?" Because in 
and through Him we breathe, in and through Him we exist. Not the He is standing somewhere 
and making my blood circulate. What is meant is that He is the Essence of all this, tie Soul of 
my soul. You cannot by any possibility say you know Him; it would be degrading Him. You 
cannot get out of yourself, so you cannot know Him. Knowledge is objectification. For instance, 
in memory you are objectifying many things, projecting them out of yourself. All memory, all the 
things which I have seen and which I know are in my mind. The pictures, the impressions of all 



these things, are in my mind, and when I would try to think of them, to know them, the first act of 
knowledge would be to project them outside. This cannot be done with God, because He is the 
Essence of our souls, we cannot project Him outside ourselves. Here is one of the profoundest 
passages in Vedanta: "He that is the Essence of your soul, He is the Truth, He is the Self, thou 
art That, O Shvetaketu." This is what is meant by "Thou art God." You cannot describe Him by 
any other language. All attempts of language, calling Him father, or brother, or our dearest 
friend, are attempts to objectify God, which cannot be done. He is the Eternal Subject of 
everything. I am the subject of this chair; I see the chair; so God is the Eternal Subject of my 
soul. How can you objectify Him, the Essence of your souls, the Reality of everything? Thus, I 
would repeat to you once more, God is neither knowable nor unknowable, but something 
infinitely higher than either. He is one with us, and that which is one with us is neither knowable 
nor unknowable, as our own self. You cannot know your own self; you cannot move it out and 
make it an object to look at, because you are that and cannot separate yourself from it. Neither 
is it unknowable, for what is better known than yourself? It is really the centre of our knowledge. 
In exactly the same sense, God is neither unknowable nor known, but infinitely higher than both; 
for He is our real Self. 

First, we see then that the question, "What caused the Absolute?" is a contradiction in terms; 
and secondly, we find that the idea of God in the Advaita is this Oneness; and, therefore, 
we cannot objectify Him, for we are always living and moving in Him, whether we know it or 
not. Whatever we do is always through Him. Now the question is: What are time, space, and 
causation? Advaita means non-duality; there are no two, but one. Yet we see that here is a 
proposition that the Absolute is manifesting Itself as many, through the veil of time, space, 
and causation. Therefore it seems that here are two, the Absolute and Maya (the sum total 
of time, space, and causation). It seems apparently very convincing that there are two. To 
this the Advaitist replies that it cannot be called two. To have two, we must have two absolute 
independent existences which cannot be caused. In the first place time, space, and causation 
cannot be said to be independent existences. Time is entirely a dependent existence; it 
changes with every change of our mind. Sometimes in dream one imagines that one has lived 
several years, at other times several months were passed as one second. So, time is entirely 
dependent on our state of mind. Secondly, the idea of time vanishes altogether, sometimes. 
So with space. We cannot know what space is. Yet it is there, indefinable, and cannot exist 
separate from anything else. So with causation. 

The one peculiar attribute we find in time, space, and causation is that they cannot exist 
separate from other things. Try to think of space without colour, or limits, or any connection 
with the things around — just abstract space. You cannot; you have to think of it as the space 
between two limits or between three objects. It has to be connected with some object to have 
any existence. So with time; you cannot have any idea of abstract time, but you have to take 
two events, one preceding and the other succeeding, and join the two events by the idea of 
succession. Time depends on two events, just as space has to be related to outside objects. 
And the idea of causation is inseparable from time and space. This is the peculiar thing about 
them that they have no independent existence. They have not even the existence which the 
chair or the wall has. They are as shadows around everything which you cannot catch. They 
have no real existence; yet they are not non-existent, seeing that through them all things 
are manifesting as this universe. Thus we see, first, that the combination of time, space, and 
causation has neither existence nor non-existence. Secondly, it sometimes vanishes. To give an 
illustration, there is a wave on the ocean. The wave is the same as the ocean certainly, and yet 
we know it is a wave, and as such different from the ocean. What makes this difference? The 
name and the form, that is, the idea in the mind and the form. Now, can we think of a wave-form 
as something separate from the ocean? Certainly not. It is always associated with the ocean 



idea. If the wave subsides, the form vanishes in a moment, and yet the form was not a delusion. 
So long as the wave existed the form was there, and you were bound to see the form. This is 
Maya. 

The whole of this universe, therefore, is, as it were, a peculiar form; the Absolute is that ocean 
while you and I, and suns and stars, and everything else are various waves of that ocean. And 
what makes the waves different? Only the form, and that form is time, space, and causation, 
all entirely dependent on the wave. As soon as the wave goes, they vanish. As soon as the 
individual gives up this Maya, it vanishes for him and he becomes free. The whole struggle is 
to get rid of this clinging on to time, space, and causation, which are always obstacles in our 
way. What is the theory of evolution? What are the two factors? A tremendous potential power 
which is trying to express itself, and circumstances which are holding it down, the environments 
not allowing it to express itself. So, in order to fight with these environments, the power is taking 
new bodies again and again. An amoeba, in the struggle, gets another body and conquers 
some obstacles, then gets another body and so on, until it becomes man. Now, if you carry this 
idea to its logical conclusion, there must come a time when that power that was in the amoeba 
and which evolved as man will have conquered all the obstructions that nature can bring before 
it and will thus escape from all its environments. This idea expressed in metaphysics will take 
this form; there are two components in every action, the one the subject, the other the object 
and the one aim of life is to make the subject master of the object. For instance, I feel unhappy 
because a man scolds me. My struggle will be to make myself strong enough to conquer the 
environment, so that he may scold and I shall not feel. That is how we are all trying to conquer. 
What is meant by morality? Making the subject strong by attuning it to the Absolute, so that 
finite nature ceases to have control over us. It is a logical conclusion of our philosophy that there 
must come a time when we shall have conquered all the environments, because nature is finite. 

Here is another thing to learn. How do you know that nature is finite? You can only know this 
through metaphysics. Nature is that Infinite under limitations. Therefore it is finite. So, there 
must come a time when we shall have conquered all environments. And how are we to conquer 
them? We cannot possibly conquer all the objective environments. We cannot. The little fish 
wants to fly from its enemies in the water. How does it do so? By evolving wings and becoming 
a bird. The fish did not change the water or the air; the change was in itself. Change is always 
subjective. All through evolution you find that the conquest of nature comes by change in the 
subject. Apply this to religion and morality, and you will find that the conquest of evil comes 
by the change in the subjective alone. That is how the Advaita system gets its whole force, on 
the subjective side of man. To talk of evil and misery is nonsense, because they do not exist 
outside. If I am immune against all anger, I never feel angry. If I am proof against all hatred, I 
never feel hatred. 

This is, therefore, the process by which to achieve that conquest — through the subjective, 
by perfecting the subjective. I may make bold to say that the only religion which agrees with, 
and even goes a little further than modern researches, both on physical and moral lines is 
the Advaita, and that is why it appeals to modern scientists so much. They find that the old 
dualistic theories are not enough for them, do not satisfy their necessities. A man must have 
not only faith, but intellectual faith too. Now, in this later part of the nineteenth century, such an 
idea as that religion coming from any other source than one's own hereditary religion must be 
false shows that there is still weakness left, and such ideas must be given up. I do not mean 
that such is the case in this country alone, it is in every country, and nowhere more than in my 
own. This Advaita was never allowed to come to the people. At first some monks got hold of 
it and took it to the forests, and so it came to be called the "Forest Philosophy". By the mercy 
of the Lord, the Buddha came and preached it to the masses, and the whole nation became 



Buddhists. Long after that, when atheists and agnostics had destroyed the nation again, it was 
found out that Advaita was the only way to save India from materialism. 

Thus has Advaita twice saved India from materialism Before the Buddha came, materialism had 
spread to a fearful extent, and it was of a most hideous kind, not like that of the present day, but 
of a far worse nature. I am a materialist in a certain sense, because I believe that there is only 
One. That is what the materialist wants you to believe; only he calls it matter and I call it God. 
The materialists admit that out of this matter all hope, and religion, and everything have come. I 
say, all these have come out of Brahman. But the materialism that prevailed before Buddha was 
that crude sort of materialism which taught, "Eat, drink, and be merry; there is no God, soul or 
heaven; religion is a concoction of wicked priests." It taught the morality that so long as you live, 
you must try to live happily; eat, though you have to borrow money for the food, and never mind 
about repaying it. That was the old materialism, and that kind of philosophy spread so much that 
even today it has got the name of "popular philosophy". Buddha brought the Vedanta to light, 
gave it to the people, and saved India. A thousand years after his death a similar state of things 
again prevailed. The mobs, the masses, and various races, had been converted to Buddhism; 
naturally the teachings of the Buddha became in time degenerated, because most of the people 
were very ignorant. Buddhism taught no God, no Ruler of the universe, so gradually the masses 
brought their gods, and devils, and hobgoblins out again, and a tremendous hotchpotch was 
made of Buddhism in India. Again materialism came to the fore, taking the form of licence with 
the higher classes and superstition with the lower. Then Shankaracharya arose and once more 
revivified the Vedanta philosophy. He made it a rationalistic philosophy. In the Upanishads the 
arguments are often very obscure. By Buddha the moral side of the philosophy was laid stress 
upon, and by Shankaracharya, the intellectual side. He worked out, rationalised, and placed 
before men the wonderful coherent system of Advaita. 

Materialism prevails in Europe today. You may pray for the salvation of the modern sceptics, but 
they do not yield, they want reason. The salvation of Europe depends on a rationalistic religion, 
and Advaita — the non-duality, the Oneness, the idea of the Impersonal God — is the only 
religion that can have any hold on any intellectual people. It comes whenever religion seems 
to disappear and irreligion seems to prevail, and that is why it has taken ground in Europe and 
America. 

I would say one thing more in connection with this philosophy. In the old Upanishads we find 
sublime poetry; their authors were poets. Plato says, inspiration comes to people through 
poetry, and it seems as if these ancient Rishis, seers of Truth, were raised above humanity to 
show these truths through poetry. They never preached, nor philosophised, nor wrote. Music 
came out of their hearts. In Buddha we had the great, universal heart and infinite patience, 
making religion practical and bringing it to everyone's door. In Shankaracharya we saw 
tremendous intellectual power, throwing the scorching light of reason upon everything. We want 
today that bright sun of intellectuality joined with the heart of Buddha, the wonderful infinite 
heart of love and mercy. This union will give us the highest philosophy. Science and religion will 
meet and shake hands. Poetry and philosophy will become friends. This will be the religion of 
the future, and if we can work it out, we may be sure that it will be for all times and peoples. This 
is the one way that will prove acceptable to modern science, for it has almost come to it. When 
the scientific teacher asserts that all things are the manifestation of one force, does it not remind 
you of the God of whom you hear in the Upanishads: "As the one fire entering into the universe 
expresses itself in various forms, even so that One Soul is expressing Itself in every soul and 
yet is infinitely more besides?" Do you not see whither science is tending? The Hindu nation 
proceeded through the study of the mind, through metaphysics and logic. The European nations 
start from external nature, and now they too are coming to the same results. We find that 



searching through the mind we at last come to that Oneness, that Universal One, the Internal 
Soul of everything, the Essence and Reality of everything, the Ever-Free, the Ever-blissful, the 
Ever-Existing. Through material science we come to the same Oneness. Science today is telling 
us that all things are but the manifestation of one energy which is the sum total of everything 
which exists, and the trend of humanity is towards freedom and not towards bondage. Why 
should men be moral? Because through morality is the path towards freedom, and immorality 
leads to bondage. 

Another peculiarity of the Advaita system is that from its very start it is non-destructive. This 
is another glory, the boldness to preach, "Do not disturb the faith of any, even of those who 
through ignorance have attached themselves to lower forms of worship." That is what it 
says, do not disturb, but help everyone to get higher and higher; include all humanity. This 
philosophy preaches a God who is a sum total. If you seek a universal religion which can apply 
to everyone, that religion must not be composed of only the parts, but it must always be their 
sum total and include all degrees of religious development. 

This idea is not clearly found in any other religious system. They are all parts equally struggling 
to attain to the whole. The existence of the part is only for this. So, from the very first, Advaita 
had no antagonism with the various sects existing in India. There are dualists existing today, 
and their number is by far the largest in India, because dualism naturally appeals to less 
educated minds. It is a very convenient, natural, common-sense explanation of the universe. 
But with these dualists, Advaita has no quarrel. The one thinks that God is outside the universe, 
somewhere in heaven, and the other, that He is his own Soul, and that it will be a blasphemy to 
call Him anything more distant. Any idea of separation would be terrible. He is the nearest of the 
near. There is no word in any language to express this nearness except the word Oneness. 
With any other idea the Advaitist is not satisfied just as the dualist is shocked with the concept 
of the Advaita, and thinks it blasphemous. At the same time the Advaitist knows that these other 
ideas must be, and so has no quarrel with the dualist who is on the right road. From his 
standpoint, the dualist will have to see many. It is a constitutional necessity of his standpoint. 
Let him have it. The Advaitist knows that whatever may be his theories, he is going to the same 
goal as he himself. There he differs entirely from dualist who is forced by his point of view to 
believe that all differing views are wrong. The dualists all the world over naturally believe in a 
Personal God who is purely anthropomorphic, who like a great potentate in this world is pleased 
with some and displeased with others. He is arbitrarily pleased with some people or races and 
showers blessing upon them. Naturally the dualist comes to the conclusion that God has 
favourites, and he hopes to be one of them. You will find that in almost every religion is the 
idea: "We are the favourites of our God, and only by believing as we do, can you be taken into 
favour with Him." Some dualists are so narrow as to insist that only the few that have been 
predestined to the favour of God can be saved; the rest may try ever so hard, but they cannot 
be accepted. I challenge you to show me one dualistic religion which has not more or less of 
this exclusiveness. And, therefore, in the nature of things, dualistic religions are bound to fight 
and quarrel with each other, and this they have ever been doing. Again, these dualists win the 
popular favour by appealing to the vanity of the uneducated. They like to feel that they enjoy 
exclusive privileges. The dualist thinks you cannot be moral until you have a God with a rod in 
His hand, ready to punish you. The unthinking masses are generally dualists, and they, poor 
fellows, have been persecuted for thousands of years in every country; and their idea of 
salvation is, therefore, freedom from the fear of punishment. I was asked by a clergyman in 
America, "What! you have no Devil in your religion? How can that be?" But we find that the best 
and the greatest men that have been born in the world have worked with that high impersonal 
idea. It is the Man who said, "I and my Father are One", whose power has descended unto 
millions. For thousands of years it has worked for good. And we know that the same Man, 



because he was a nondualist, was merciful to others. To the masses who could not conceive of 
anything higher than a Personal God, he said, "Pray to your Father in heaven." To others who 
could grasp a higher idea, he said, "I am the vine, ye are the branches," but to his disciples to 
whom he revealed himself more fully, he proclaimed the highest truth, "I and my Father are 
One." 

It was the great Buddha, who never cared for the dualist gods, and who has been called an 
atheist and materialist, who yet was ready to give up his body for a poor goat. That Man set 
in motion the highest moral ideas any nation can have. Whenever there is a moral code, it 
is ray of light from that Man. We cannot force the great hearts of the world into narrow limits, 
and keep them there, especially at this time in the history of humanity when there is a degree 
of intellectual development such as was never dreamed of even a hundred years ago, when 
a wave of scientific knowledge has arisen which nobody, even fifty years ago, would have 
dreamed of. By trying to force people into narrow limits you degrade them into animals and 
unthinking masses. You kill their moral life. What is now wanted is a combination of the greatest 
heart with the highest intellectuality, of infinite love with infinite knowledge. The Vedantist gives 
no other attributes to God except these three — that He is Infinite Existence, Infinite Knowledge, 
and Infinite Bliss, and he regards these three as One. Existence without knowledge and love 
cannot be; knowledge without love and love without knowledge cannot be. What we want is the 
harmony of Existence, Knowledge, and Bliss Infinite. For that is our goal. We want harmony, not 
one-sided development. And it is possible to have the intellect of a Shankara with the heart of a 
Buddha. I hope we shall all struggle to attain to that blessed combination. 



CHAPTER VII 
GOD IN EVERYTHING 

( Delivered in London, 27th October 1896 ) 

We have seen how the greater portion of our life must of necessity be filled with evils, however 
we may resist, and that this mass of evil is practically almost infinite for us. We have been 
struggling to remedy this since the beginning of time, yet everything remains very much the 
same. The more we discover remedies, the more we find ourselves beset by subtler evils. We 
have also seen that all religions propose a God, as the one way of escaping these difficulties. 
All religions tell us that if you take the world as it is, as most practical people would advise 
us to do in this age, then nothing would be left to us but evil. They further assert that there is 
something beyond this world. This life in the five senses, life in the material world, is not all; it 
is only a small portion, and merely superficial. Behind and beyond is the Infinite in which there 
is no more evil. Some people call It God, some Allah, some Jehovah, Jove, and so on. The 
Vedantin calls It Brahman. 

The first impression we get of the advice given by religions is that we had better terminate our 
existence. To the question how to cure the evils of life, the answer apparently is, give up life. It 
reminds one of the old story. A mosquito settled on the head of a man, and a friend, wishing to 
kill the mosquito, gave it such a blow that he killed both man and mosquito. The remedy of evil 
seems to suggest a similar course of action. Life is full of ills, the world is full of evils; that is a 
fact no one who is old enough to know the world can deny. 

But what is remedy proposed by all the religions? That this world is nothing. Beyond this 
world is something which is very real. Here comes the difficulty. The remedy seems to destroy 
everything. How can that be a remedy? Is there no way out then? The Vedanta says that 
what all the religions advance is perfectly true, but it should be properly understood. Often it is 
misunderstood, because the religions are not very clear in their meaning. What we really want is 
head and heart combined. The heart is great indeed; it is through the heart that come the great 
inspirations of life. I would a hundred times rather have a little heart and no brain, than be all 
brains and no heart. Life is possible, progress is possible for him who has heart, but he who has 
no heart and only brains dies of dryness. 

At the same time we know that he who is carried along by his heart alone has to undergo many 
ills, for now and then he is liable to tumble into pitfalls. The combination of heart and head is 
what we want. I do not mean that a man should compromise his heart for his brain or vice versa, 
but let everyone have an infinite amount of heart and feeling, and at the same time an infinite 
amount of reason. Is there any limit to what we want in this world? Is not the world infinite? 
There is room for an infinite amount of feeling, and so also for an infinite amount of culture and 
reason. Let them come together without limit, let them be running together, as it were, in parallel 
lines each with the other. 

Most of the religions understand the fact, but the error into which they all seem to fall is the 
same; they are carried away by the heart, the feelings. There is evil in the world, give up the 
world; that is the great teaching, and the only teaching, no doubt. Give up the world. There 



cannot be two opinions that to understand the truth everyone of us has to give up error. There 
cannot be two opinions that everyone of us in order to have good must give up evil; there 
cannot be two opinions that everyone of us to have life must give up what is death. 

And yet, what remains to us, if this theory involves giving up the life of the senses, the life as we 
know it? And what else do we mean by life? If we give this up, what remains? 

We shall understand this better, when, later on, we come to the more philosophical portions 
of the Vedanta. But for the present I beg to state that in Vedanta alone we find a rational 
solution of the problem. Here I can only lay before you what the Vedanta seeks to teach, and 
that is the deification of the world. The Vedanta does not in reality denounce the world. The 
ideal of renunciation nowhere attains such a height as in the teachings of the Vedanta. But, at 
the same time, dry suicidal advice is not intended; it really means deification of the world — 
giving up the world as we think of it, as we know it, as it appears to us — and to know what 
it really is. Deify it; it is God alone. We read at the commencement of one of the oldest of the 
Upanishads, "Whatever exists in this universe is to be covered with the Lord." 

We have to cover everything with the Lord Himself, not by a false sort of optimism, not by 
blinding our eyes to the evil, but by really seeing God in everything. Thus we have to give up the 
world, and when the world is given up, what remains? God. What is meant? You can have your 
wife; it does not mean that you are to abandon her, but that you are to see God in the wife. Give 
up your children; what does that mean? To turn them out of doors, as some human brutes do in 
every country? Certainly not. That is diabolism; it is not religion. But see God in your children. 
So, in everything. In life and in death, in happiness and in misery, the Lord is equally present. 
The whole world is full of the Lord. Open your eyes and see Him. This is what Vedanta teaches. 
Give up the world which you have conjectured, because your conjecture was based upon a 
very partial experience, upon very poor reasoning, and upon your own weakness. Give it up; 
the world we have been thinking of so long, the world to which we have been clinging so long, 
is a false world of our own creation. Give that up; open your eyes and see that as such it never 
existed; it was a dream, Maya. What existed was the Lord Himself. It is He who is in the child, 
in the wife, and in the husband; it is He who is in the good and in the bad; He is in the sin and in 
the sinner; He is in life and in death. 

A tremendous assertion indeed! Yet that is the theme which the Vedanta wants to demonstrate, 
to teach, and to preach. This is just the opening theme. 

Thus we avoid the dangers of life and its evils. Do not desire anything. What makes us 
miserable? The cause of all miseries from which we suffer is desire. You desire something, and 
the desire is not fulfilled; the result is distress. If there is no desire, there is no suffering. But 
here, too, there is the danger of my being misunderstood. So it is necessary to explain what 
I mean by giving up desire and becoming free from all misery. The walls have no desire and 
they never suffer. True, but they never evolve. This chair has no desires, it never suffers; but 
it is always a chair. There is a glory in happiness, there is a glory in suffering. If I may dare to 
say so, there is a utility in evil too. The great lesson in misery we all know. There are hundreds 
of things we have done in our lives which we wish we had never done, but which, at the same 
time, have been great teachers. As for me, I am glad I have done something good and many 
things bad; glad I have done something right, and glad I have committed many errors, because 
every one of them has been a great lesson. I, as I am now, am the resultant of all I have done, 
all I have thought. Every action and thought have had their effect, and these effects are the sum 
total of my progress. 



We all understand that desires are wrong, but what is meant by giving up desires? How could 
life go on? It would be the same suicidal advice, killing the desire and the man too. The solution 
is this. Not that you should not have property, not that you should not have things which are 
necessary and things which are even luxuries. Have all that you want, and more, only know 
the truth and realise it. Wealth does not belong to anybody. Have no idea of proprietorship, 
possessorship. You are nobody, nor am I, nor anyone else. All belongs to the Lord, because 
the opening verse told us to put the Lord in everything. God is in the wealth that you enjoy. 
He is in the desire that rises in your mind. He is in the things you buy to satisfy your desire; 
He is in your beautiful attire, in your beautiful ornaments. This is the line of thought. All will be 
metamorphosed as soon as you begin to see things in that light. If you put God in your every 
movement, in your conversation, in your form, in everything, the whole scene changes, and the 
world, instead of appearing as one of woe and misery, will become a heaven. 

"The kingdom of heaven is within you," says Jesus; so says the Vedanta, and every great 
teacher. "He that hath eyes to see, let him see, and he that hath ears to hear, let him hear." The 
Vedanta proves that the truth for which we have been searching all this time is present, and was 
all the time with us. In our ignorance, we thought we had lost it, and went about the world crying 
and weeping, struggling to find the truth, while all along it was dwelling in our own hearts. There 
alone can we find it. 

If we understand the giving up of the world in its old, crude sense, then it would come to this: 
that we must not work, that we must be idle, sitting like lumps of earth, neither thinking nor doing 
anything, but must become fatalists, driven about by every circumstance, ordered about by 
the laws of nature, drifting from place to place. That would be the result. But that is not what is 
meant. We must work. Ordinary mankind, driven everywhere by false desire, what do they know 
of work? The man propelled by his own feelings and his own senses, what does he know about 
work? He works, who is not propelled by his own desires, by any selfishness whatsoever. He 
works, who has no ulterior motive in view. He works, who has nothing to gain from work. 

Who enjoys the picture, the seller or the seer? The seller is busy with his accounts, computing 
what his gain will be, how much profit he will realise on the picture. His brain is full of that. He 
is looking at the hammer, and watching the bids. He is intent on hearing how fast the bids are 
rising. That man is enjoying the picture who has gone there without any intention of buying or 
selling. He looks at the picture and enjoys it. So this whole universe is a picture, and when these 
desires have vanished, men will enjoy the world, and then this buying and selling and these 
foolish ideas of possession will be ended. The money-lender gone, the buyer gone, the seller 
gone, this world remains the picture, a beautiful painting. I never read of any more beautiful 
conception of God than the following: "He is the Great Poet, the Ancient Poet; the whole 
universe is His poem, coming in verses and rhymes and rhythms, written in infinite bliss." When 
we have given up desires, then alone shall we be able to read and enjoy this universe of God. 
Then everything will become deified. Nooks and corners, by-ways and shady places, which we 
thought dark and unholy, will be all deified. They will all reveal their true nature, and we shall 
smile at ourselves and think that all this weeping and crying has been but child's play, and we 
were only standing by, watching. 

So, do your work, says the Vedanta. It first advises us how to work — by giving up — giving up 
the apparent, illusive world. What is meant by that? Seeing God everywhere. Thus do you work. 
Desire to live a hundred years, have all earthly desires, if you wish, only deify them, convert 
them into heaven. Have the desire to live a long life of helpfulness, of blissfulness and activity 
on this earth. Thus working, you will find the way out. There is no other way. If a man plunges 
headlong into foolish luxuries of the world without knowing the truth, he has missed his footing, 



he cannot reach the goal. And if a man curses the world, goes into a forest, mortifies his flesh, 
and kills himself little by little by starvation, makes his heart a barren waste, kills out all feelings, 
and becomes harsh, stern, and dried-up, that man also has missed the way. These are the two 
extremes, the two mistakes at either end. Both have lost the way, both have missed the goal. 

So work, says the Vedanta, putting God in everything, and knowing Him to be in everything. 
Work incessantly, holding life as something deified, as God Himself, and knowing that this is all 
we have to do, this is all we should ask for. God is in everything, where else shall we go to find 
Him? He is already in every work, in every thought, in every feeling. Thus knowing, we must 
work — this is the only way, there is no other. Thus the effects of work will not bind us. We have 
seen how false desires are the cause of all the misery and evil we suffer, but when they are 
thus deified, purified, through God, they bring no evil, they bring no misery. Those who have not 
learnt this secret will have to live in a demoniacal world until they discover it. Many do not know 
what an infinite mine of bliss is in them, around them, everywhere; they have not yet discovered 
it. What is a demoniacal world? The Vedanta says, ignorance. 

We are dying of thirst sitting on the banks of the mightiest river. We are dying of hunger sitting 
near heaps of food. Here is the blissful universe, yet we do not find it. We are in it all the 
time, and we are always mistaking it. Religion proposes to find this out for us. The longing for 
this blissful universe is in all hearts. It has been the search of all nations, it is the one goal of 
religion, and this ideal is expressed in various languages in different religions. It is only the 
difference of language that makes all these apparent divergences. One expresses a thought 
in one way, another a little differently, yet perhaps each is meaning exactly what the other is 
expressing in a different language. 

More questions arise in connection with this. It is very easy to talk. From my childhood I have 
heard of seeing God everywhere and in everything, and then I can really enjoy the world, but as 
soon as I mix with the world, and get a few blows from it, the idea vanishes. I am walking in the 
street thinking that God is in every man, and a strong man comes along and gives me a push 
and I fall flat on the footpath. Then I rise up quickly with clenched fist, the blood has rushed to 
my head, and the reflection goes. Immediately I have become mad. Everything is forgotten; 
instead of encountering God I see the devil. Ever since we were born we have been told to see 
God in all. Every religion teaches that — see God in everything and everywhere. Do you not 
remember in the New Testament how Christ says so? We have all been taught that; but it is 
when we come to the practical side, that the difficulty begins. You all remember how in /Eesop's 
Fables a fine stag is looking at his form reflected in a lake and is saying to his young one, "How 
powerful I am, look at my splendid head, look at my limbs, how strong and muscular they are; 
and how swiftly I can run." In the meantime he hears the barking of dogs in the distance, and 
immediately takes to his heels, and after he has run several miles, he comes back panting. The 
young one says, "You just told me how strong you were, how was it that when the dog barked, 
you ran away?" "Yes, my son; but when the dogs bark all my confidence vanishes." Such is the 
case with us. We think highly of humanity, we feel ourselves strong and valiant, we make grand 
resolves; but when the "dogs" of trial and temptation bark, we are like the stag in the fable. 
Then, if such is the case, what is the use of teaching all these things? There is the greatest use. 
The use is this, that perseverance will finally conquer. Nothing can be done in a day. 

"This Self is first to be heard, then to be thought upon, and then meditated upon." Everyone can 
see the sky, even the very worm crawling upon the earth sees the blue sky, but how very far 
away it is! So it is with our ideal. It is far away, no doubt, but at the same time, we know that we 
must have it. We must even have the highest ideal. Unfortunately in this life, the vast majority of 
persons are groping through this dark life without any ideal at all. If a man with an ideal makes 



a thousand mistakes, I am sure that the man without an ideal makes fifty thousand. Therefore, 
it is better to have an ideal. And this ideal we must hear about as much as we can, till it enters 
into our hearts, into our brains, into our very veins, until it tingles in every drop of our blood and 
permeates every pore in our body. We must meditate upon it. "Out of the fullness of the heart 
the mouth speaketh," and out of the fullness of the heart the hand works too. 

It is thought which is the propelling force in us. Fill the mind with the highest thoughts, hear them 
day after day, think them month after month. Never mind failures; they are quite natural, they 
are the beauty of life, these failures. What would life be without them? It would not be worth 
having if it were not for struggles. Where would be the poetry of life? Never mind the struggles, 
the mistakes. I never heard a cow tell a lie, but it is only a cow — never a man. So never 
mind these failures, these little backslidings; hold the ideal a thousand times, and if you fail a 
thousand times, make the attempt once more. The ideal of man is to see God in everything. But 
if you cannot see Him in everything, see Him in one thing, in that thing which you like best, and 
then see Him in another. So on you can go. There is infinite life before the soul. Take your time 
and you will achieve your end. 

"He, the One, who vibrates more quickly than mind, who attains to more speed than mind can 
ever do, whom even the gods reach not, nor thought grasps, He moving, everything moves. 
In Him all exists. He is moving. He is also immovable. He is near and He is far. He is inside 
everything. He is outside everything, interpenetrating everything. Whoever sees in every 
being that same Atman, and whoever sees everything in that Atman, he never goes far from 
that Atman. When all life and the whole universe are seen in this Atman, then alone man has 
attained the secret. There is no more delusion for him. Where is any more misery for him who 
sees this Oneness in the universe?" 

This is another great theme of the Vedanta, this Oneness of life, this Oneness of everything. We 
shall see how it demonstrates that all our misery comes through ignorance, and this ignorance 
is the idea of manifoldness, this separation between man and man, between nation and nation, 
between earth and moon, between moon and sun. Out of this idea of separation between atom 
and atom comes all misery. But the Vedanta says this separation does not exist, it is not real. 
It is merely apparent, on the surface. In the heart of things there is Unity still. If you go below 
the surface, you find that Unity between man and man, between races and races, high and low, 
rich and poor, gods and men, and men and animals. If you go deep enough, all will be seen as 
only variations of the One, and he who has attained to this conception of Oneness has no more 
delusion. What can delude him? He knows the reality of everything, the secret of everything. 
Where is there any more misery for him? What does he desire? He has traced the reality of 
everything to the Lord, the Centre, the Unity of everything, and that is Eternal Existence, Eternal 
Knowledge, Eternal Bliss. Neither death nor disease, nor sorrow, nor misery, nor discontent is 
there. All is Perfect Union and Perfect Bliss. For whom should he mourn then? In the Reality, 
there is no death, there is no misery; in the Reality, there is no one to mourn for, no one to 
be sorry for. He has penetrated everything, the Pure One, the Formless, the Bodiless, the 
Stainless. He the Knower, He the Great Poet, the Self-Existent, He who is giving to everyone 
what he deserves. They grope in darkness who worship this ignorant world, the world that is 
produced out of ignorance, thinking of it as Existence, and those who live their whole lives in 
this world, and never find anything better or higher, are groping in still greater darkness. But he 
who knows the secret of nature, seeing That which is beyond nature through the help of nature, 
he crosses death, and through the help of That which is beyond nature, he enjoys Eternal 
Bliss. "Thou sun, who hast covered the Truth with thy golden disc, do thou remove the veil, so 
that I may see the Truth that is within thee. I have known the Truth that is within thee, I have 
known what is the real meaning of thy rays and thy glory and have seen That which shines in 



thee; the Truth in thee I see, and That which is within thee is within me, and I am That." 



CHAPTER VIM 
REALISATION 

{Delivered in London, 29th October 1896) 

I will read to you from one of the Upanishads. It is called the Katha Upanishad. Some of you, 
perhaps, have read the translation by Sir Edwin Arnold, called the Secret of Death. In our last 
[i.e. a previous] lecture we saw how the inquiry which started with the origin of the world, and 
the creation of the universe, failed to obtain a satisfactory answer from without, and how it then 
turned inwards. This book psychologically takes up that suggestion, questioning into the internal 
nature of man. It was first asked who created the external world, and how it came into being. 
Now the question is: What is that in man; which makes him live and move, and what becomes 
of that when he dies? The first philosophers studied the material substance, and tried to reach 
the ultimate through that. At the best, they found a personal governor of the universe, a human 
being immensely magnified, but yet to all intents and purposes a human being. But that could 
not be the whole of truth; at best, it could be only partial truth. We see this universe as human 
beings, and our God is our human explanation of the universe. 

Suppose a cow were philosophical and had religion it would have a cow universe, and a cow 
solution of the problem, and it would not be possible that it should see our God. Suppose cats 
became philosophers, they would see a cat universe and have a cat solution of the problem of 
the universe, and a cat ruling it. So we see from this that our explanation of the universe is not 
the whole of the solution. Neither does our conception cover the whole of the universe. It would 
be a great mistake to accept that tremendously selfish position which man is apt to take. Such a 
solution of the universal problem as we can get from the outside labours under this difficulty that 
in the first place the universe we see is our own particular universe, our own view of the Reality. 
That Reality we cannot see through the senses; we cannot comprehend It. We only know the 
universe from the point of view of beings with five senses. Suppose we obtain another sense, 
the whole universe must change for us. Suppose we had a magnetic sense, it is quite possible 
that we might then find millions and millions of forces in existence which we do not now know, 
and for which we have no present sense or feeling. Our senses are limited, very limited indeed; 
and within these limitations exists what we call our universe; and our God is the solution of 
that universe, but that cannot be the solution of the whole problem. But man cannot stop there. 
He is a thinking being and wants to find a solution which will comprehensively explain all the 
universes. He wants to see a world which is at once the world of men, and of gods, and of all 
possible beings, and to find a solution which will explain all phenomena. 

We see, we must first find the universe which includes all universes; we must find something 
which, by itself, must be the material running through all these various planes of existence, 
whether we apprehend it through the senses or not. If we could possibly find something which 
we could know as the common property of the lower as well as of the higher worlds, then our 
problem would be solved. Even if by the sheer force of logic alone we could understand that 
there must be one basis of all existence, then our problem might approach to some sort of 
solution; but this solution certainly cannot be obtained only through the world we see and know, 
because it is only a partial view of the whole. 



Our only hope then lies in penetrating deeper. The early thinkers discovered that the farther 
they were from; the centre, the more marked were the variations and differentiations; and that 
the nearer they approached the centre, the nearer they were to unity. The nearer we are to 
the centre of a circle, the nearer we are to the common ground in which all the radii meet; and 
the farther we are from the centre, the more divergent is our radial line from the others. The 
external world is far away from the centre, and so there is no common ground in it where all 
the phenomena of existence can meet. At best, the external world is but one part of the whole 
of phenomena. There are other parts, the mental, the moral, and the intellectual — the various 
planes of existence — and to take up only one, and find a solution of the whole out of that one, 
is simply impossible. We first, therefore, want to find somewhere a centre from which, as it 
were, all the other planes of existence start, and standing there we should try to find a solution. 
That is the proposition. And where is that centre? It is within us. The ancient sages penetrated 
deeper and deeper until they found that in the innermost core of the human soul is the centre of 
the whole universe. All the planes gravitate towards that one point. That is the common ground, 
and standing there alone can we find a common solution. So the question who made this world 
is not very philosophical, nor does its solution amount to anything. 

This the Katha Upanishad speaks in very figurative language. There was, in ancient times, a 
very rich man, who made a certain sacrifice which required that he should give away everything 
that he had. Now, this man was not sincere. He wanted to get the fame and glory of having 
made the sacrifice, but he was only giving things which were of no further use to him — old 
cows, barren, blind, and lame. He had a boy called Nachiketas. This boy saw that his father 
was not doing what was right, that he was breaking his vow; but he did not know what to say 
to him. In India, father and mother are living gods to their children. And so the boy approached 
the father with the greatest respect and humbly inquired of him, "Father, to whom are you going 
to give me? For your sacrifice requires that everything shall be given away." The father was 
very much vexed at this question and replied, "What do you mean, boy? A father giving away 
his own son?" The boy asked the question a second and a third time, and then the angry father 
answered, "Thee I give unto Death (Yama)." And the story goes on to say that the boy went to 
Yama, the god of death. Yama was the first man who died. He went to heaven and became the 
governor of all the Piths; all the good people who die, go, and live with him for a long time. He is 
a very pure and holy person, chaste and good, as his name (Yama) implies. 

So the boy went to Yama's world. But even gods are sometimes not at home, and three days 
this boy had to wait there. After the third day Yama returned. "O learned one," said Yama, "you 
have been waiting here for three days without food, and you are a guest worthy of respect. 
Salutation to thee, O Brahmin, and welfare to me! I am very sorry I was not at home. But for 
that I will make amends. Ask three boons, one for each day." And the boy asked, "My first boon 
is that my father's anger against me may pass away; that he will be kind to me and recognise 
me when you allow me to depart." Yama granted this fully. The next boon was that he wanted 
to know about a certain sacrifice which took people to heaven. Now we have seen that the 
oldest idea which we got in the Samhita portion of the Vedas was only about heaven where 
they had bright bodies and lived with the fathers. Gradually other ideas came, but they were 
not satisfying; there was still need for something higher. Living in heaven would not be very 
different from life in this world. At best, it would only be a very healthy rich man's life, with plenty 
of sense-enjoyments and a sound body which knows no disease. It would be this material world, 
only a little more refined; and we have seen the difficulty that the external material world can 
never solve the problem. So no heaven can solve the problem. If this world cannot solve the 
problem, no multiplication of this world can do so, because we must always remember that 
matter is only an infinitesimal part of the phenomena of nature. The vast part of phenomena 
which we actually see is not matter. For instance, in every moment of our life what a great part 



is played by thought and feeling, compared with the material phenomena outside! How vast is 
this internal world with its tremendous activity! The sense-phenomena are very small compared 
with it. The heaven solution commits this mistake; it insists that the whole of phenomena is 
only in touch, taste, sight, etc. So this idea of heaven did not give full satisfaction to all. Yet 
Nachiketas asks, as the second boon, about some sacrifice through which people might attain 
to this heaven. There was an idea in the Vedas that these sacrifices pleased the gods and took 
human beings to heaven. 

In studying all religions you will notice the fact that whatever is old becomes holy. For instance, 
our forefathers in India used to write on birch bark, but in time they learnt how to make paper. 
Yet the birch bark is still looked upon as very holy. When the utensils in which they used to 
cook in ancient times were improved upon, the old ones became holy; and nowhere is this idea 
more kept up than in India. Old methods, which must be nine or ten thousand years old, as 
of rubbing two sticks together to make fire, are still followed. At the time of sacrifice no other 
method will do. So with the other branch of the Asiatic Aryans. Their modern descendants still 
like to obtain fire from lightning, showing that they used to get fire in this way. Even when they 
learnt other customs, they kept up the old ones, which then became holy. So with the Hebrews. 
They used to write on parchment. They now write on paper, but parchment is very holy. So with 
all nations. Every rite which you now consider holy was simply an old custom, and the Vedic 
sacrifice were of this nature. In course of time, as they found better methods of life, their ideas 
were much improved; still these old forms remained, and from time to time they were practiced 
and received a holy significance. 

Then, a body of men made it their business to carry on these sacrifices. These were the priests, 
who speculated on the sacrifices, and the sacrifices became everything to them. The gods 
came to enjoy the fragrance of the sacrifices, and it was considered that everything in this world 
could be got by the power of sacrifices. If certain oblations were made, certain hymns chanted, 
certain peculiar forms of altars made, the gods would grant everything. So Nachiketas asks by 
what form of sacrifice can a man go to heaven. The second boon was also readily granted by 
Yama who promised that this sacrifice should henceforth be named after Nachiketas. 

Then the third boon comes, and with that the Upanishad proper begins. The boy said, "There is 
this difficulty: when a man dies some say he is, others that he is not. Instructed by you I desire 
to understand this." But Yama was frightened. He had been very glad to grant the other two 
boons. Now he said, "The gods in ancient times were puzzled on this point. This subtle law is 
not easy to understand. Choose some other boon, O Nachiketas, do not press me on this point, 
release me." 

The boy was determined, and said, "What you have said is true, O Death, that even the gods 
had doubts on this point, and it is no easy matter to understand. But I cannot obtain another 
exponent like you and there is no other boon equal to this." 

Death said, "Ask for sons and grandsons who will live one hundred years, many cattle, 
elephants, gold, and horses. Ask for empire on this earth and live as many ears as you like. Or 
choose any other boon which you think equal to these — wealth and long life. Or be thou a king, 
O Nachiketas, on the wide earth. I will make thee the enjoyer of all desires. Ask for all those 
desires which are difficult to obtain in the world. These heavenly maidens with chariots and 
music, which are not to be obtained by man, are yours. Let them serve you. O Nachiketas, but 
do not question me as to what comes after death." 

Nachiketas said, "These are merely things of a day, O Death, they wear away the energy of all 



the sense-organs. Even the longest life is very short. These horses and chariots, dances and 
songs, may remain with Thee. Man cannot be satisfied by wealth. Can we retain wealth when 
we behold Thee? We shall live only so long as Thou desires". Only the boon which I have asked 
is chosen by me." 

Yama was pleased with this answer and said, "Perfection is one thing and enjoyment another; 
these two having different ends, engage men differently. He who chooses perfection becomes 
pure. He who chooses enjoyment misses his true end. Both perfection and enjoyment present 
themselves to man; the wise man having examined both distinguishes one from the other. He 
chooses perfection as being superior to enjoyment, but the foolish man chooses enjoyment 
for the pleasure of his body. O Nachiketas, having thought upon the things which are only 
apparently desirable, thou hast wisely abandoned them." Death then proceeded to teach 
Nachiketas. 

We now get a very developed idea of renunciation and Vedic morality, that until one has 
conquered the desires for enjoyment the truth will not shine in him. So long as these vain 
desires of our senses are clamouring and as it were dragging us outwards every moment, 
making us slaves to everything outside — to a little colour, a little taste, a little touch — 
notwithstanding all our pretensions, how can the truth express itself in our hearts? 

Yama said, "That which is beyond never rises before the mind of a thoughtless child deluded by 
the folly of riches. This world exists, the other does not,' thinking thus they come again and 
again under my power. To understand this truth is very difficult. Many, even hearing it 
continually, do not understand it, for the speaker must be wonderful, so must be the hearer. The 
teacher must be wonderful, so must be the taught. Neither is the mind to be disturbed By vain 
arguments, for it is no more a question of argument, it is a question of fact." We have always 
heard that every religion insists on our having faith. We have been taught to believe blindly. 
Well, this idea of blind faith is objectionable, no doubt, but analysing it, we find that behind it is a 
very great truth. What it really means is what we read now. The mind is not to be ruffled by vain 
arguments, because argument will not help us to know God. It is a question of fact, and not of 
argument. All argument and reasoning must be based upon certain perceptions. Without these, 
there cannot be any argument. Reasoning is the method of comparison between certain facts 
which we have already perceived. If these perceived facts are not there already, there cannot 
be any reasoning. If this is true of external phenomena, why should it not be so of the internal? 
The chemist takes certain chemicals and certain results are produced. This is a fact; you see it, 
sense it, and make that the basis on which to build all your chemical arguments. So with the 
physicists, so with all other sciences. All knowledge must stand on perception of certain facts, 
and upon that we have to build our reasoning. But, curiously enough the vast majority of 
mankind think, especially at the present time, that no such perception is possible in religion, that 
religion can only be apprehended by vain arguments. Therefore we are told not to disturb the 
mind by vain arguments. Religion is a question of fact, not of talk. We have to analyse our own 
souls and to find what is there. We have to understand it and to realise what is understood. That 
is religion. No amount of talk will make religion. So the question whether there is a God or not 
can never be proved by argument, for the arguments are as much on one side as on the other. 
But if there is a God, He is in our own hearts. Have you ever seen Him? The question as to 
whether this world exists or not has not yet been decided, and the debate between the idealists 
and the realists is endless. Yet we know that the world exists, that it goes on. We only change 
the meaning of words. So, with all the questions of life, we must come to facts. There are 
certain religious facts which, as in external science, have to be perceived, and upon them 
religion will be built. Of course, the extreme claim that you must believe every dogma of a 
religion is degrading to the human mind. The man who asks you to believe everything, 



degrades himself, and, if you believe, degrades you too. The sages of the world have only the 
right to tell us that they have analysed their minds and have found these facts, and if we do the 
same we shall also believe, and not before. That is all that there is in religion. But you must 
always remember this, that as a matter of fact 99.9 per cent of those who attack religion have 
never analysed their minds, have never struggled to get at the facts. So their arguments do not 
have any weight against religion, any more than the words of a blind man who cries out, "You 
are all fools who believe in the sun," would affect us. 

This is one great idea to learn and to hold on to, this idea of realisation. This turmoil and fight 
and difference in religions will cease only when we understand that religion is not in books and 
temples. It is an actual perception. Only the man who has actually perceived God and soul 
has religion. There is no real difference between the highest ecclesiastical giant who can talk 
by the volume, and the lowest, most ignorant materialist. We are all atheists; let us confess it. 
Mere intellectual assent does not make us religious. Take a Christian, or a Mohammedan, or a 
follower of any other religion in the world. Any man who truly realised the truth of the Sermon on 
the Mount would be perfect, and become a god immediately. Yet it is said that there are many 
millions of Christians in the world. What is meant is that mankind may at some time try to realise 
that Sermon. Not one in twenty millions is a real Christian. 

So, in India, there are said to be three hundred millions of Vedantins. But if there were one in a 
thousand who had actually realised religion, this world would soon be greatly changed. We are 
all atheists, and yet we try to fight the man who admits it. We are all in the dark; religion is to us 
a mere intellectual assent, a mere talk, a mere nothing. We often consider a man religious who 
can talk well. But this is not religion. "Wonderful methods of joining words, rhetorical powers, 
and explaining texts of the books in various ways — these are only for the enjoyment of the 
learned, and not religion." Religion comes when that actual realisation in our own souls begins. 
That will be the dawn of religion; and then alone we shall be moral. Now we are not much more 
moral than the animals. We are only held down by the whips of society. If society said today, "I 
will not punish you if you steal", we should just make a rush for each other's property. It is the 
policeman that makes us moral. It is social opinion that makes us moral, and really we are little 
better than animals. We understand how much this is so in the secret of our own hearts. So let 
us not be hypocrites. Let us confess that we are not religious and have no right to look down on 
others. We are all brothers and we shall be truly moral when we have realised religion. 

If you have seen a certain country, and a man forces you to say that you have not seen it, still in 
your heart of hearts you know you have. So, when you see religion and God in a more intense 
sense than you see this external world, nothing will be able to shake your belief. Then you have 
real faith. That is what is meant by the words in your Gospel, "He who has faith even as a grain 
of mustard seed." Then you will know the Truth because you have become the Truth. 

This is the watchword of the Vedanta — realise religion, no talking will do. But it is done 
with great difficulty. He has hidden Himself inside the atom, this Ancient One who resides 
in the inmost recess of every human heart. The sages realised Him through the power of 
introspection, and got beyond both joy and misery, beyond what we call virtue and vice, beyond 
good and bad deeds, beyond being and non-being; he who has seen Him has seen the Reality. 
But what then about heaven? It was the idea of happiness minus unhappiness. That is to say, 
what we want is the joys of this life minus its sorrows. That is a very good idea, no doubt; it 
comes naturally; but it is a mistake throughout, because there is no such thing as absolute 
good, nor any such thing as absolute evil. 

You have all heard of that rich man in Rome who learnt one day that he had only about a 



million pounds of his property left; he said, "What shall I do tomorrow?" and forthwith committed 
suicide. A million pounds was poverty to him. What is joy, and what is sorrow? It is a vanishing 
quantity, continually vanishing. When I was a child I thought if I could be a cabman, it would be 
the very acme of happiness for me to drive about. I do not think so now. To what joy will you 
cling? This is the one point we must all try to understand, and it is one of the last superstitions 
to leave us. Everyone's idea of pleasure is different. I have seen a man who is not happy unless 
he swallows a lump of opium every day. He may dream of a heaven where the land is made of 
opium. That would be a very bad heaven for me. Again and again in Arabian poetry we read 
of heaven with beautiful gardens, through which rivers run. I lived much of my life in a country 
where there is too much water; many villages are flooded and thousands of lives are sacrificed 
every year. So, my heaven would not have gardens through which rivers flow; I would have 
a land where very little rain falls. Our pleasures are always changing. If a young man dreams 
of heaven, he dreams of a heaven where he will have a beautiful wife. When that same man 
becomes old he does not want a wife. It is our necessities which make our heaven, and the 
heaven changes with the change of our necessities. If we had a heaven like that desired by 
those to whom sense-enjoyment is the very end of existence, then we would not progress. That 
would be the most terrible curse we could pronounce on the soul. Is this all we can come to? A 
little weeping and dancing, and then to die like a dog! What a curse you pronounce on the head 
of humanity when you long for these things! That is what you do when you cry after the joys of 
this world, for you do not know what true joy is. What philosophy insists on is not to give up joys, 
but to know what joy really is. The Norwegian heaven is a tremendous fighting place where they 
all sit before Odin; they have a wild boar hunt, and then they go to war and slash each other to 
pieces. But in some way or other, after a few hours of such fighting, the wounds are all healed 
up, and they go into a hall where the boar has been roasted, and have a carousal. And then the 
wild boar takes form again, ready to be hunted the next day. That is much the same thing as 
our heaven, not a whit worse, only our ideas may be a little more refined. We want to hunt wild 
boars, and get to a place where all enjoyments will continue, just as the Norwegian imagines 
that the wild boar is hunted and eaten every day, and recovers the next day. 

Now, philosophy insists that there is a joy which is absolute, which never changes. That joy 
cannot be the joys and pleasures we have in this life, and yet Vedanta shows that everything 
that is joyful in this life is but a particle of that real joy, because that is the only joy there is. 
Every moment really we are enjoying the absolute bliss, though covered up, misunderstood, 
and caricatured. Wherever there is any blessing, blissfulness, or joy, even the joy of the thief 
in stealing, it is that absolute bliss coming out, only it has become obscured, muddled up, as 
it were, with all sorts of extraneous conditions, and misunderstood. But to understand that, 
we have to go through the negation, and then the positive side will begin. We have to give up 
ignorance and all that is false, and then truth will begin to reveal itself to us. When we have 
grasped the truth, things which we gave up at first will take new shape and form, will appear to 
us in a new light, and become deified. They will have become sublimated, and then we shall 
understand them in their true light. But to understand them, we have first to get a glimpse of 
truth; we must give them up at first, and then we get them back again, deified. We have to give 
up all our miseries and sorrows, all our little joys. 

"That which all the Vedas declare, which is proclaimed by all penances, seeking which men lead 
lives of continence, I will tell you in one word — it is 'Om'." You will find this word "Om" praised 
very much in the Vedas, and it is held to be very sacred. 

Now Yama answers the question: "What becomes of a man when the body dies ?" "This Wise 
One never dies, is never born, It arises from nothing, and nothing arises from It. Unborn, 
Eternal, Everlasting, this Ancient One can never be destroyed with the destruction of the body. 



If the slayer thinks he can slay, or if the slain thinks he is slain, they both do not know the truth, 
for the Self neither slays nor is slain." A most tremendous position. I should like to draw your 
attention to the adjective in the first line, which is "wise". As we proceed we shall find that the 
ideal of the Vedanta is that all wisdom and all purity are in the soul already, dimly expressed or 
better expressed — that is all the difference. The difference between man and man, and all 
things in the whole creation, is not in kind but only in degree. The background, the reality, of 
everyone is that same Eternal, Ever Blessed, Ever Pure, and Ever Perfect One. It is the Atman, 
the Soul, in the saint and the sinner, in the happy and the miserable, in the beautiful and the 
ugly, in men and in animals; it is the same throughout. It is the shining One. The difference is 
caused by the power of expression. In some It is expressed more, in others less, but this 
difference of expression has no effect upon the Atman. If in their dress one man shows more of 
his body than another, it does not make any difference in their bodies; the difference is in their 
dress. We had better remember here that throughout the Vedanta philosophy, there is no such 
thing as good and bad, they are not two different things; the same thing is good or bad, and the 
difference is only in degree. The very thing I call pleasurable today, tomorrow under better 
circumstances I may call pain. The fire that warms us can also consume us; it is not the fault of 
the fire. Thus, the Soul being pure and perfect, the man who does evil is giving the lie unto 
himself, he does not know the nature of himself. Even in the murderer the pure Soul is there; It 
dies not. It was his mistake; he could not manifest It; he had covered It up. Nor in the man who 
thinks that he is killed is the Soul killed; It is eternal. It can never be killed, never 
destroyed. "Infinitely smaller than the smallest, infinitely larger than the largest, this Lord of all is 
present in the depths of every human heart. The sinless, bereft of all misery, see Him through 
the mercy of the Lord; the Bodiless, yet dwelling in the body; the Spaceless, yet seeming to 
occupy space; Infinite, Omnipresent: knowing such to be the Soul, the sages never are 
miserable." 

"This Atman is not to be realised by the power of speech, nor by a vast intellect, nor by the 
study of their Vedas." This is a very bold utterance. As I told you before, the sages were very 
bold thinkers, and never stopped at anything. You will remember that in India these Vedas 
are regarded in a much higher light than even the Christians regard their Bible. Your idea of 
revelation is that a man was inspired by God; but in India the idea is that things exist because 
they are in the Vedas. In and through the Vedas the whole creation has come. All that is called 
knowledge is in the Vedas. Every word is sacred and eternal, eternal as the soul, without 
beginning and without end. The whole of the Creator's mind is in this book, as it were. That is 
the light in which the Vedas are held. Why is this thing moral? Because the Vedas say so. Why 
is that thing immoral? Because the Vedas say so. In spite of that, look at the boldness of these 
sages whom proclaimed that the truth is not to be found by much study of the Vedas. "With 
whom the Lord is pleased, to that man He expresses Himself." But then, the objection may be 
advanced that this is something like partisanship. But at Yama explains, "Those who are evil- 
doers, whose minds area not peaceful, can never see the Light. It is to those who are true in 
heart, pure in deed, whose senses are controlled, that this Self manifests Itself." 

Here is a beautiful figure. Picture the Self to be then rider and this body the chariot, the intellect 
to be the charioteer, mind the reins, and the senses the horses. He whose horses are well 
broken, and whose reins are strong and kept well in the hands of the charioteer (the intellect) 
reaches the goal which is the state of Him, the Omnipresent. But the man whose horses (the 
senses) are not controlled, nor the reins (the mind) well managed, goes to destruction. This 
Atman in all beings does not manifest Himself to the eyes or the senses, but those whose 
minds have become purified and refined realise Him. Beyond all sound, all sight, beyond form, 
absolute, beyond all taste and touch, infinite, without beginning and without end, even beyond 
nature, the Unchangeable; he who realises Him, frees himself from the jaws of death. But it is 



very difficult. It is, as it were, walking on the edge of a razor; the way is long and perilous, but 
struggle on, do not despair. Awake, arise, and stop not till the goal is reached. 

The one central idea throughout all the Upanishads is that of realisation. A great many 
questions will arise from time to time, and especially to the modern man. There will be the 
question of utility, there will be various other questions, but in all we shall find that we are 
prompted by our past associations. It is association of ideas that has such a tremendous power 
over our minds. To those who from childhood have always heard of a Personal God and the 
personality of the mind, these ideas will of course appear very stern and harsh, but if they listen 
to them and think over them, they will become part of their lives and will no longer frighten them. 
The great question that generally arises is the utility of philosophy. To that there can be only one 
answer: if on the utilitarian ground it is good for men to seek for pleasure, why should not those 
whose pleasure is in religious speculation seek for that? Because sense-enjoyments please 
many, they seek for them, but there may be others whom they do not please, who want higher 
enjoyment. The dog's pleasure is only in eating and drinking. The dog cannot understand the 
pleasure of the scientist who gives up everything, and, perhaps, dwells on the top of a mountain 
to observe the position of certain stars. The dogs may smile at him and think he is a madman. 
Perhaps this poor scientist never had money enough to marry even, and lives very simply. May 
be, the dog laughs at him. But the scientist says, "My dear dog, your pleasure is only in the 
senses which you enjoy, and you know nothing beyond; but for me this is the most enjoyable 
life, and if you have the right to seek your pleasure in your own way, so have I in mine." The 
mistake is that we want to tie the whole world down to our own plane of thought and to make 
our mind the measure of the whole universe. To you, the old sense-things are, perhaps, the 
greatest pleasure, but it is not necessary that my pleasure should be the same, and when you 
insist upon that, I differ from you. That is the difference between the worldly utilitarian and the 
religious man. The first man says, "See how happy I am. I get money, but do not bother my 
head about religion. It is too unsearchable, and I am happy without it." So far, so good; good for 
all utilitarians. But this world is terrible. If a man gets happiness in any way excepting by injuring 
his fellow-beings, godspeed him; but when this man comes to me and says, "You too must do 
these things, you will be a fool if you do not," I say, "You are wrong, because the very things, 
which are pleasurable to you, have not the slightest attraction for me. If I had to go after a few 
handfuls of gold, my life would not be worth living! I should die." That is the answer the religious 
man would make. The fact is that religion is possible only for those who have finished with these 
lower things. We must have our own experiences, must have our full run. It is only when we 
have finished this run that the other world opens. 

The enjoyments of the senses sometimes assume another phase which is dangerous and 
tempting. You will always hear the idea — in very old times, in every religion — that a time will 
come when all the miseries of life wills cease, and only its joys and pleasures will remain, and 
this earth will become a heaven. That I do not believe. This earth will always remain this same 
world. It is a most terrible thing to say, yet I do not see my way out of it. The misery in the world 
is like chronic rheumatism in the body; drive it from one part and it goes to another, drive it from 
there and you will feel it somewhere else. Whatever you do, it is still there. In olden times people 
lived in forests, and ate each other; in modern times they do not eat each other's flesh, but they 
cheat one another. Whole countries and cities are ruined by cheating. That does not show much 
progress. I do not see that what you call progress in the world is other than the multiplication of 
desires. If one thing is obvious to me it is this that desires bring all misery; it is the state of the 
beggar, who is always begging for something, and unable to see anything without the wish to 
possess it, is always longing, longing for more. If the power to satisfy our desires is increased in 
arithmetical progression, the power of desire is increased in geometrical progression. The sum 
total of happiness and misery in this world is at least the same throughout. If a wave rises in 



the ocean it makes a hollow somewhere. If happiness comes to one man, unhappiness comes 
to another or, perhaps, to some animal. Men are increasing in numbers and some animals are 
decreasing; we are killing them off, and taking their land ; we are taking all means of sustenance 
from them. How can we say, then, that happiness is increasing? The strong race eats up the 
weaker, but do you think that the strong race will be very happy? No; they will begin to kill each 
other. I do not see on practical grounds how this world can become a heaven. Facts are against 
it. On theoretical grounds also, I see it cannot be. 

Perfection is always infinite. We are this infinite already, and we are trying to manifest that 
infinity. You and I, and all beings, are trying to manifest it. So far it is all right. But from this fact 
some German philosophers have started a peculiar theory — that this manifestation will become 
higher and higher until we attain perfect manifestation, until we have become perfect beings. 
What is meant by perfect manifestation? Perfection means infinity, and manifestation means 
limit, and so it means that we shall become unlimited limiteds, which is self-contradictory. 
Such a theory may please children; but it is poisoning their minds with lies, and is very bad for 
religion. But we know that this world is a degradation, that man is a degradation of God, and 
that Adam fell. There is no religion today that does not teach that man is a degradation. We 
have been degraded down to the animal, and are now going up, to emerge out of this bondage. 
But we shall never be able entirely to manifest the Infinite here. We shall struggle hard, but 
there will come a time when we shall find that it is impossible to be perfect here, while we are 
bound by the senses. And then the march back to our original state of Infinity will be sounded. 

This is renunciation. We shall have to get out of the difficulty by reversing the process by which 
we got in, and then morality and charity will begin. What is the watchword of all ethical codes? 
"Not I, but thou", and this "I" is the outcome of the Infinite behind, trying to manifest Itself on the 
outside world. This little "I" is the result, and it will have to go back and join the Infinite, its own 
nature. Every time you say, "Not I, my brother, but thou", you are trying to go back, and every 
time you say "I, and not thou", you take the false step of trying to manifest the Infinite through 
the sense-world. That brings struggles and evils into the world, but after a time renunciation 
must come, eternal renunciation. The little "I" is dead and gone. Why care so much for this little 
life? All these vain desires of living and enjoying this life, here or in some other place, bring 
death. 

If we are developed from animals, the animals also may be degraded men. How do you know 
it is not so? You have seen that the proof of evolution is simply this: you find a series of bodies 
from the lowest to the highest rising in a gradually ascending scale. But from that how can you 
insist that it is always from the lower upwards, and never from the higher downwards? The 
argument applies both ways, and if anything is true, I believe it is that the series is repeating 
itself in going up and down. How can you have evolution without involution? Our struggle for 
the higher life shows that we have been degraded from a high state. It must be so, only it may 
vary as to details. I always cling to the idea set forth with one voice by Christ, Buddha, and the 
Vedanta, that we must all come to perfection in time, but only by giving up this imperfection. 
This world is nothing. It is at best only a hideous caricature, a shadow of the Reality. We must 
go to the Reality. Renunciation will take us to It. Renunciation is the very basis of our true life; 
every moment of goodness and real life that we enjoy is when we do not think of ourselves. This 
little separate self must die. Then we shall find that we are in the Real, and that Reality is God, 
and He is our own true nature, and He is always in us and with us. Let us live in Him and stand 
in Him. It is the only joyful state of existence. Life on the plane of the Spirit is the only life, and 
let us all try to attain to this realisation. 



CHAPTER IX 
UNITY IN DIVERSITY 

( Delivered in London, 3rd November 1896 ) 

"The Self-existent One projected the senses outwards and, therefore, a man looks outward, not 
within himself. A certain wise one, desiring immortality, with inverted senses, perceived the Self 
within." As I have already said, the first inquiry that we find in the Vedas was concerning 
outward things, and then a new idea came that the reality of things is not to be found in the 
external world; not by looking outwards, but by turning the eyes, as it is literally expressed, 
inwards. And the word used for the Soul is very significant: it is He who has gone inward, the 
innermost reality of our being, the heart centre, the core, from which, as it were, everything 
comes out; the central sun of which the mind, the body, the sense-organs, and everything else 
we have are but rays going outwards. "Men of childish intellect, ignorant persons, run after 
desires which are external, and enter the trap of far-reaching death, but the wise, understanding 
immortality, never seek for the Eternal in this life of finite things." The same idea is here made 
clear that in this external world, which is full of finite things, it is impossible to see and find the 
Infinite. The Infinite must be sought in that alone which is infinite, and the only thing infinite 
about us is that which is within us, our own soul. Neither the body, nor the mind, not even our 
thoughts, nor the world we see around us, are infinite. The Seer, He to whom they all belong, 
the Soul of man, He who is awake in the internal man, alone is infinite, and to seek for the 
Infinite Cause of this whole universe we must go there. In the Infinite Soul alone we can find 
it. "What is here is there too, and what is there is here also. He who sees the manifold goes 
from death to death." We have seen how at first there was the desire to go to heaven. When 
these ancient Aryans became dissatisfied with the world around them, they naturally thought 
that after death they would go to some place where there would be all happiness without any 
misery; these places they multiplied and called Svargas — the word may be translated as 
heavens — where there would be joy for ever, the body would become perfect, and also the 
mind, and there they would live with their forefathers. But as soon as philosophy came, men 
found that this was impossible and absurd. The very idea of an infinite in place would be a 
contradiction in terms, as a place must begin and continue in time. Therefore they had to give 
up that idea. They found out that the gods who lived in these heavens had once been human 
beings on earth, who through their good works had become gods, and the godhoods, as they 
call them, were different states, different positions; none of the gods spoken of in the Vedas are 
permanent individuals. 

For instance, Indra and Varuna are not the names of certain persons, but the names of 
positions as governors and so on. The Indra who had lived before is not the same person as 
the Indra of the present day; he has passed away, and another man from earth has filled his 
place. So with all the other gods These are certain positions, which are filled successively by 
human souls who have raised themselves to the condition of gods, and yet even they die. In 
the old Rig-Veda we find the word "immortality" used with regard to these gods, but later on it 
is dropped entirely, for they found that immortality which is beyond time and space cannot be 
spoken of with regard to any physical form, however subtle it may be. However fine it may be, 
it must have a beginning in time and space, for the necessary factors that enter into the make- 
up of form are in space. Try to think of a form without space: it is impossible. Space is one of the 



materials, as it were, which make up the form, and this is continually changing Space and time 
are in Maya, and this idea is expressed in the line — "What is hole, that is there too." If there 
are these gods, they must be bound by the same laws that apply here, and all laws involve 
destruction and renewal again and again. These laws are moulding matter into different forms, 
and crushing them out again. Everything born must die; and so, if there are heavens, the same 
laws must hold good there. 

In this world we find that all happiness is followed by misery as its shadow. Life has its shadow, 
death. They must go together, because they are not contradictory, not two separate existences, 
but different manifestations of the same unit, life and death, sorrow and happiness, good and 
evil. The dualistic conception that good and evil are two separate entities, and that they are 
both going on eternally is absurd on the face of it. They are the diverse manifestations of one 
and the same fact, one time appearing as bad, and at another time as good. The difference 
does not exist in kind, but only in degree. They differ from each other in degree of intensity. We 
find as a fact that the same nerve systems carry good and bad sensations alike, and when the 
nerves are injured, neither sensation comes to us. If a certain nerve is paralysed, we do not get 
the pleasurable feelings that used to come along that wires and at the same time we do not get 
the painful feelings either. They are never two, but the same. Again, the same thing produces 
pleasure and pain at different times of life. The same phenomenon will produce pleasure in one, 
and pain in another. The eating of meat produces pleasure to a man, but pain to the animal 
which is eaten. There has never been anything which gives pleasure to all alike. Some are 
pleased, others displeased. So on it will go. Therefore, this duality of existence is denied. And 
what follows? I told you in my last lecture that we can never have ultimately everything good on 
this earth and nothing bad. It may have disappointed and frightened some of you, but I cannot 
help it, and I am open to conviction when I am shown to the contrary; but until that can be 
proved to me, and I can find that it is true, cannot say so. 

The general argument against my statement, and apparently a very convincing one, is this that 
in the course of evolution, all that is evil in what we see around us is gradually being eliminated, 
and the result is that if this elimination continues for millions of years, a time will come when all 
the evil will have been extirpated, and the good alone will remain. This is apparently a very 
sound argument. Would to God it were true! But there is a fallacy in it, and it is this that it takes 
for granted that both good and evil are things that are eternally fixed. It takes for granted that 
there is a definite mass of evil, which may be represented by a hundred, and likewise of good, 
and that this mass of evil is being diminished every day, leaving only the good. But is it so? The 
history of the world shows that evil is a continuously increasing quantity, as well as good. Take 
the lowest man; he lives in the forest. His sense of enjoyment is very small, and so also is his 
power to suffer. His misery is entirely on the sense-plane. If he does not get plenty of food, he is 
miserable; but give him plenty of food and freedom to rove and to hunt, and he is perfectly 
happy. His happiness consists only in the senses, and so does his misery also. But if that man 
increases in knowledge, his happiness will increase, the intellect will open to him, and his sense- 
enjoyment will evolve into intellectual enjoyment. He will feel pleasure in reading a beautiful 
poem, and a mathematical problem will be of absorbing interest to him. But, with these, the 
inner nerves will become more and more susceptible to miseries of mental pain, of which the 
savage does not think. Take a very simple illustration. In Tibet there is no marriage, and there is 
no jealousy, yet we know that marriage is a much higher state. The Tibetans have not known 
the wonderful enjoyment, the blessing of chastity, the happiness of having a chaste, virtuous 
wife, or a chaste, virtuous husband. These people cannot feel that. And similarly they do not 
feel the intense jealousy of the chaste wife or husband, or the misery caused by unfaithfulness 
on either side, with all the heart-burnings and sorrows which believers in chastity experience. 
On one side, the latter gain happiness, but on the other, they suffer misery too. 



Take your country which is the richest in the world, and which is more luxurious than any other, 
and see how intense is the misery, how many more lunatics you have, compared with other 
races, only because the desires are so keen. A man must keep up a high standard of living, and 
the amount of money he spends in one year would be a fortune to a man in India. You cannot 
preach to him of simple living because society demands so much of him. The wheel of society is 
rolling on; it stops not for the widow's tears or the orphans' wails. This is the state of things 
everywhere. Your sense of enjoyment is developed, your society is very much more beautiful 
than some others. You have so many more things to enjoy. But those who have fewer have 
much less misery. You can argue thus throughout, the higher the ideal you have in the brain, 
the greater is your enjoyment, and the more profound your misery. One is like the shadow of the 
other. That the evils are being eliminated may be true, but if so, the good also must be dying 
out. But are not evils multiplying fast, and good diminishing, if I may so put it? If good increases 
in arithmetical progression, evil increase in geometrical progression. And this is Maya. This is 
neither optimism nor pessimism. Vedanta does not take he position that this world is only a 
miserable one. That would be untrue. At the same time, it is a mistake to say that this world is 
full of happiness and blessings. So it is useless to tell children that this world is all good, all 
flowers, all milk and honey. That is what we have all dreamt. At the same time it is erroneous to 
think, because one man has suffered more than another, that all is evil. It is this duality, this play 
of good and evil that makes our world of experiences. At the same time the Vedanta says, "Do 
not think that good and evil are two, are two separate essences, for they are one and the same 
thing, appearing in different degrees and in different guises and producing differences of feeling 
in the same mind." So, the first thought of the Vedanta is the finding of unity in the external; the 
One Existence manifesting Itself, however different It may appear in manifestation. Think of the 
old crude theory of the Persians — two gods creating this world, the good god doing everything 
that is good, and the bad one, everything bad. On the very face of it, you see the absurdity, for if 
it be carried out, every law of nature must have two parts, one of which is manipulated by one 
god, and then he goes away and the other god manipulates the other part. There the difficulty 
comes that both are working in the same world, and these two gods keep themselves in 
harmony by injuring one portion and doing good to another. This is a crude case, of course, the 
crudest way of expressing the duality of existence. But, take the more advanced, the more 
abstract theory that this world is partly good and partly bad. This also is absurd, arguing from 
the same standpoint. It is the law of unity that gives us our food, and it is the same law that kills 
many through accidents or misadventure. 

We find, then, that this world is neither optimistic nor pessimistic; it is a mixture of both, and as 
we go on we shall find that the whole blame is taken away from nature and put upon our own 
shoulders. At the same time the Vedanta shows the way out, but not by denial of evil, because 
it analyses boldly the fact as it is and does not seek to conceal anything. It is not hopeless; 
it is not agnostic. It finds out a remedy, but it wants to place that remedy on adamantine 
foundations: not by shutting the child's mouth and blinding its eyes with something which is 
untrue, and which the child will find out in a few days. I remember when I was young, a young 
man's father died and left him poorly off, with a large family to support, and he found that his 
father's friends were unwilling to help him. He had a conversation with a clergyman who offered 
this consolation, "Oh, it is all good, all is sent for our good." That is the old method of trying to 
put a piece of gold leaf on an old sore. It is a confession of weakness, of absurdity. The young 
man went away, and six months afterwards a son was born to the clergyman, and he gave a 
thanksgiving party to which the young man was invited. The clergyman prayed, "Thank God for 
His mercies." And the young man stood up and said, "Stop, this is all misery." The clergyman 
asked, "Why?" "Because when my father died you said it was good, though apparently evil; so 
now, this is apparently good, but really evil." Is this the way to cure the misery of the world? Be 



good and have mercy on those who suffer. Do not try to patch it up, nothing will cure this world; 
go beyond it. 

This is a world of good and evil. Wherever there is good, evil follows, but beyond and behind all 
these manifestations, all these contradictions, the Vedanta finds out that Unity. It says, "Give 
up what is evil and give up what is good." What remains then? Behind good and evil stands 
something which is yours, the real you, beyond every evil, and beyond every good too, and it 
is that which is manifesting itself as good and bad. Know that first, and then and then alone 
you will be a true optimist, and not before; for then you will be able to control everything. 
Control these manifestations and you will be at liberty to manifest the real "you". First be 
master of yourself, stand up and be free, go beyond the pale of these laws, for these laws do 
not absolutely govern you, they are only part of your being. First find out that you are not the 
slave of nature, never were and never will be; that this nature, infinite as you may think it, is 
only finite, a drop in the ocean, and your Soul is the ocean; you are beyond the stars, the sun, 
and the. They are like mere bubbles compared with your infinite being. Know that, and you will 
control both good and evil. Then alone the whole vision will change and you will stand up and 
say, "How beautiful is good and how wonderful is evil!" 

That is what the Vedanta teaches. It does not propose any slipshod remedy by covering wounds 
with gold leaf and the more the wound festers, putting on more gold leaf. This life is a hard fact; 
work your way through it boldly, though it may be adamantine; no matter, the soul is stronger. 
It lays no responsibility on little gods; for you are the makers of your own fortunes. You make 
yourselves suffer, you make good and evil, and it is you who put your hands before your eyes 
and say it is dark. Take your hands away and see the light; you are effulgent, you are perfect 
already, from the very beginning. We now understand the verse: "He goes from death to death 
who sees the many here." See that One and be free. 

How are we to see it? This mind, so deluded, so weak, so easily led, even this mind can be 
strong and may catch a glimpse of that knowledge, that Oneness, which saves us from dying 
again and again. As rain falling upon a mountain flows in various streams down the sides of the 
mountain, so all the energies which you see here are from that one Unit. It has become 
manifold falling upon Maya. Do not run after the manifold; go towards the One. "He is in all that 
moves; He is in all that is pure; He fills the universe; He is in the sacrifice; He is the guest in the 
house; He is in man, in water, in animals, in truth; He is the Great One. As fire coming into this 
world is manifesting itself in various forms, even so, that one Soul of the universe is manifesting 
Himself in all these various forms. As air coming into this universe manifests itself in various 
forms, even so, the One Soul of all souls, of all beings, is manifesting Himself in all forms." This 
is true for you when you have understood this Unity, and not before Then is all optimism, 
because He is seen everywhere. The question is that if all this be true that that Pure One — the 
Self, the Infinite — has entered all this, how is it that He suffers, how is it that He becomes 
miserable, impure? He does not, says the Upanishad. "As the sun is the cause of the eyesight 
of every being, yet is not made defective by the defect in any eye, even so the Self of all is not 
affected by the miseries of the body, or by any misery that is around you." I may have some 
disease and see everything yellow, but the sun is not affected by it. "He is the One, the Creator 
of all, the Ruler of all, the Internal Soul of every being — He who makes His Oneness manifold. 
Thus sages who realise Him as the Soul of their souls, unto them belongs eternal peace; unto 
none else, unto none else. He who in this world of evanescence finds Him who never changes, 
he who in this universe of death finds that One Life, he who in this manifold finds that Oneness, 
and all those who realise Him as the Soul of their souls, to them belongs eternal peace; unto 
none else, unto none else. Where to find Him in the external world, where to find Him in the 
suns, and moons, and stars? There the sun cannot illumine, nor the moon, nor the stars, the 



flash of lightning cannot illumine the place; what to speak of this mortal fire? He shining, 
everything else shines. It is His light that they have borrowed, and He is shining through them." 
Here is another beautiful simile. Those of you who have been in India and have seen how the 
banyan tree comes from one root and spreads itself far around, will understand this. He is that 
banyan tree; He is the root of all and has branched out until He has become this universe, and 
however far He extends, every one of these trunks and branches is connected. 

Various heavens are spoken of in the Brahmana portions of the Vedas, but the philosophical 
teaching of the Upanishads gives up the idea of going to heaven. Happiness is not in this 
heaven or in that heaven, it is in the soul; places do not signify anything. Here is another 
passage which shows the different states of realisation "In the heaven of the forefathers, as a 
man sees things in a dream, so the Real Truth is seen." As in dreams we see things hazy and 
not so distinct, so we see the Reality there. There is another heaven called the Gandharva, in 
which it is still less clear; as a man sees his own reflection in the water, so is the Reality seen 
there. The highest heaven, of which the Hindus conceive is called the Brahmaloka; and in this, 
the Truth is seen much more clearly, like light and shade, but not yet quite distinctly. But as a 
man sees his own face in a mirror, perfect, distinct, and clear, so is the Truth shining in the soul 
of man. The highest heaven, therefore, is in our own souls; the greatest temple of worship is the 
human soul, greater than all heavens, says the Vedanta; for in no heaven anywhere, can we 
understand the reality as distinctly and clearly as in this life, in our own soul. Changing places 
does not help one much. I thought while I was in India that the cave would give me clearer 
vision. I found it was not so. Then I thought the forest would do so, then, Varanasi. But the same 
difficulty existed everywhere, because we make our own worlds. If I am evil, the whole world 
is evil to me. That is what the Upanishad says. And the same thing applies to all worlds. If I 
die and go to heaven, I should find the same, for until I am pure it is no use going to caves, or 
forests, or to Varanasi, or to heaven, and if I have polished my mirror, it does not matter where 
I live, I get the Reality just as It is. So it is useless, running hither and thither, and spending 
energy in vain, which should be spent only in polishing the mirror. The same idea is expressed 
again: "None sees Him, none sees His form with the eyes. It is in the mind, in the pure mind, 
that He is seen, and this immortality is gained." 

Those who were at the summer lectures on Raja-Yoga will be interested to know that what was 
taught then was a different kind of Yoga. The Yoga which we are now considering consists 
chiefly in controlling the senses. When the senses are held as slaves by the human soul, when 
they can no longer disturb the mind, then the Yogi has reached the goal. "When all vain desires 
of the heart have been given up, then this very mortal becomes immortal, then he becomes one 
with God even here. When all the knots of the heart are cut asunder, then the mortal becomes 
immortal, and he enjoys Brahman here." Here, on this earth, nowhere else. 

A few words ought to be said here. You will generally hear that this Vedanta, this philosophy 
and other Eastern systems, look only to something beyond, letting go the enjoyments and 
struggle of this life. This idea is entirely wrong. It is only ignorant people who do not know 
anything of Eastern thought, and never had brain enough to understand anything of its real 
teaching, that tell you so. On the contrary, we read in our scriptures that our philosophers do not 
want to go to other worlds, but depreciate them as places where people weep and laugh for a 
little while only and then die. As long as we are weak we shall have to go through these 
experiences; but whatever is true, is here, and that is the human soul. And this also is insisted 
upon, that by committing suicide, we cannot escape the inevitable; we cannot evade it. But the 
right path is hard to find. The Hindu is just as practical as the Western, only we differ in our 
views of life. The one says, build a good house, let us have good clothes and food, intellectual 
culture, and so on, for this is the whole of life; and in that he is immensely practical. But the 



Hindu says, true knowledge of the world means knowledge of the soul, metaphysics; and he 
wants to enjoy that life. In America there was a great agnostic, a very noble man, a very good 
man, and a very fine speaker. He lectured on religion, which he said was of no use; why bother 
our heads about other worlds? He employed this simile; we have an orange here, and we want 
to squeeze all the juice out of it. I met him once and said, "I agree with you entirely. I have some 
fruit, and I too want to squeeze out the juice. Our difference lies in the choice of the fruit. You 
want an orange, and I prefer a mango. You think it is enough to live here and eat and drink and 
have a little scientific knowledge; but you have no right to say that that will suit all tastes. Such a 
conception is nothing to me. If I had only to learn how an apple falls to the ground, or how an 
electric current shakes my nerves, I would commit suicide. I want to understand the heart of 
things, the very kernel itself. Your study is the manifestation of life, mine is the life itself. My 
philosophy says you must know that and drive out from your mind all thoughts of heaven and 
hell and all other superstitions, even though they exist in the same sense that this world exists. I 
must know the heart of this life, its very essence, what it is, not only how it works and what are 
its manifestations. I want the why of everything, I leave the how to children. As one of your 
countrymen said, 'While I am smoking a cigarette, if I were to write a book, it would be the 
science of the cigarette.' It is good and great to be scientific, God bless them in their search; but 
when a man says that is all, he is talking foolishly, not caring to know the raison d'etre of life, 
never studying existence itself. I may argue that all your knowledge is nonsense, without a 
basis. You are studying the manifestations of life, and when I ask you what life is, you say you 
do not know. You are welcome to your study, but leave me to mine." 

I am practical, very practical, in my own way. So your idea that only the West is practical is 
nonsense. You are practical in one way, and I in another. There are different types of men and 
minds. If in the East a man is told that he will find out the truth by standing on one leg all his 
life, he will pursue that method. If in the West men hear that there is a gold mine somewhere 
in an uncivilised country, thousands will face the dangers there, in the hope of getting the gold; 
and, perhaps, only one succeeds. The same men have heard that they have souls but are 
content to leave the care of them to the church. The first man will not go near the savages, he 
says it may be dangerous. But if we tell him that on the top of a high mountain lives a wonderful 
sage who can give him knowledge of the soul, he tries to climb up to him, even if he be killed 
in the attempt. Both types of men are practical, but the mistake lies in regarding this world as 
the whole of life. Yours is the vanishing point of enjoyment of the senses — there is nothing 
permanent in it, it only brings more and more misery — while mine brings eternal peace. 

I do not say your view is wrong, you are welcome to it. Great good and blessing come out 
of it, but do not, therefore, condemn my view. Mine also is practical in its own way. Let us all 
work on our own plans. Would to God all of us were equally practical on both sides. I have 
seen some scientists who were equally practical, both as scientists and as spiritual men, and 
it is my great hope that in course of time the whole of humanity will be efficient in the same 
manner. When a kettle of water is coming to the boil, if you watch the phenomenon, you find 
first one bubble rising, and then another and so on, until at last they all join, and a tremendous 
commotion takes place. This world is very similar. Each individual is like a bubble, and the 
nations, resemble many bubbles. Gradually these nations are joining, and I am sure the day 
will come when separation will vanish and that Oneness to which we are all going will become 
manifest. A time must come when every man will be as intensely practical in the scientific world 
as in the spiritual, and then that Oneness, the harmony of Oneness, will pervade the whole 
world. The whole of mankind will become Jivanmuktas — free whilst living. We are all struggling 
towards that one end through our jealousies and hatreds, through our love and co-operation. 
A tremendous stream is flowing towards the ocean carrying us all along with it; and though like 
straws and scraps of paper we may at times float aimlessly about, in the long run we are sure to 



join the Ocean of Life and Bliss. 



CHAPTER X 
THE FREEDOM OF THE SOUL 

(Delivered in London, 5th November 1896) 

The Katha Upanishad, which we have been studying, was written much later than that to which 
we now turn — the Chhandogya. The language is more modern, and the thought more 
organised. In the older Upanishads the language is very archaic, like that of the hymn portion of 
the Vedas, and one has to wade sometimes through quite a mass of unnecessary things to get 
at the essential doctrines. The ritualistic literature about which I told you which forms the second 
division of the Vedas, has left a good deal of its mark upon this old Upanishad, so that more 
than half of it is still ritualistic. There is, however, one great gain in studying the very old 
Upanishads. You trace, as it were, the historical growth of spiritual ideas. In the more recent 
Upanishads, the spiritual ideas have been collected and brought into one place; as in the 
Bhagavad Gita, for instance, which we may, perhaps, look upon as the last of the Upanishads, 
you do not find any inkling of these ritualistic ideas. The Gita is like a bouquet composed of the 
beautiful flowers of spiritual truths collected from the Upanishads. But in the Gita you cannot 
study the rise of the spiritual ideas, you cannot trace them to their source. To do that, as has 
been pointed out by many, you must study the Vedas. The great idea of holiness that has been 
attached to these books has preserved them, more than any other book in the world, from 
mutilation. In them, thoughts at their highest and at their lowest have all been preserved, the 
essential and the non-essential, the most ennobling teachings and the simplest matters of detail 
stand side by side; for nobody has dared to touch them. Commentators came and tried to 
smooth them down and to bring out wonderful new ideas from the old things; they tried to find 
spiritual ideas in even the most ordinary statements, but the texts remained, and as such, they 
are the most wonderful historical study. We all know that in the scriptures of every religion 
changes were made to suit the growing spirituality of later times; one word was changed here 
and another put in there, and so on. This, probably, has not been done with the Vedic literature, 
or if ever done, it is almost imperceptible. So we have this great advantage, we are able to 
study thoughts in their original significance, to note how they developed, how from materialistic 
ideas finer and finer spiritual ideas are evolved, until they attained their greatest height in the 
Vedanta. Descriptions of some of the old manners and customs are also there, but they do not 
appear much in the Upanishads. The language used is peculiar, terse, mnemonic. 

The writers of these books simply jotted down these lines as helps to remember certain facts 
which they supposed were already well known. In a narrative, perhaps, which they are telling, 
they take it for granted that it is well known to everyone they are addressing. Thus a great 
difficulty arises, we scarcely know the real meaning of any one of these stories, because the 
traditions have nearly died out, and the little that is left of them has been very much 
exaggerated. Many new interpretations have been put upon them, so that when you find them in 
the Puranas they have already become lyrical poems. Just as in the West, we find this 
prominent fact in the political development of Western races that they cannot bear absolute rule, 
that they are always trying to prevent any one man from ruling over them, and are gradually 
advancing to higher and higher democratic ideas, higher and higher ideas of physical liberty, so, 
in Indian metaphysics, exactly the same phenomenon appears in the development of spiritual 
life. The multiplicity of gods gave place to one God of the universe, and in the Upanishads there 



is a rebellion even against that one God. Not only was the idea of many governors of the 
universe ruling their destinies unbearable, but it was also intolerable that there should be one 
person ruling this universe. This is the first thing that strikes us. The idea grows and grows, until 
it attains its climax. In almost all of the Upanishads, we find the climax coming at the last, and 
that is the dethroning of this God of the universe. The personality of God vanishes, the 
impersonality comes. God is no more a person, no more a human being, however magnified 
and exaggerated, who rules this universe, but He has become an embodied principle in every 
being, immanent in the whole universe. It would be illogical to go from the Personal God to the 
Impersonal, and at the same time to leave man as a person. So the personal man is broken 
down, and man as principle is built up. The person is only a phenomenon, the principle is 
behind it. Thus from both sides, simultaneously, we find the breaking down of personalities and 
the approach towards principles, the Personal God approaching the Impersonal, the personal 
man approaching the Impersonal Man. Then come the succeeding stages of the gradual 
convergence of the two advancing lines of the Impersonal God and the Impersonal Man. And 
the Upanishads embody the stages through which these two lines at last become one, and the 
last word of each Upanishad is, "Thou art That". There is but One Eternally Blissful Principle, 
and that One is manifesting Itself as all this variety. 

Then came the philosophers. The work of the Upanishads seems to have ended at that point; 
the next was taken up by the philosophers. The framework was given them by the Upanishads, 
and they had to fill in the details. So, many questions would naturally arise. Taking for granted 
that there is but One Impersonal Principle which is manifesting Itself in all these manifold forms, 
how is it that the One becomes many? It is another way of putting the same old question which 
in its crude form comes into the human heart as the inquiry into the cause of evil and so forth. 
Why does evil exist in the world, and what is its cause? But the same question has now become 
refined, abstracted. No more is it asked from the platform of the senses why we are unhappy, 
but from the platform of philosophy. How is it that this One Principle becomes manifold? And 
the answer, as we have seen, the best answer that India has produced is the theory of Maya 
which says that It really has not become manifold, that It really has not lost any of Its real 
nature. Manifoldness is only apparent. Man is only apparently a person, but in reality he is the 
Impersonal Being. God is a person only apparently, but really He is the Impersonal Being. 

Even in this answer there have been succeeding stages, and philosophers have varied in their 
opinions. All Indian philosophers did not admit this theory of Maya. Possibly most of them did 
not. There are dualists, with a crude sort of dualism, who would not allow the question to be 
asked, but stifled it at its very birth. They said, "You have no right to ask such a question, you 
have no right to ask for an explanation; it is simply the will of God, and we have to submit to it 
quietly. There is no liberty for the human soul. Everything is predestined — what we shall do, 
have, enjoy, and suffer; and when suffering comes, it is our duty to endure it patiently; if we do 
not, we shall be punished all the more. How do we know that? Because the Vedas say so." And 
thus they have their texts and their meanings and they want to enforce them. 

There are others who, though not admitting the Maya theory, stand midway. They say that the 
whole of this creation forms, as it were, the body of God. God is the Soul of all souls and of 
the whole of nature. In the case of individual souls, contraction comes from evil doing. When 
a man does anything evil, his soul begins to contract and his power is diminished and goes on 
decreasing, until he does good works, when it expands again. One idea seems to be common 
in all the Indian systems, and I think, in every system in the world, whether they know it or 
not, and that is what I should call the divinity of man. There is no one system in the world, no 
real religion, which does not hold the idea that the human soul, whatever it be, or whatever 
its relation to God, is essentially pure and perfect, whether expressed in the language of 



mythology, allegory, or philosophy. Its real nature is blessedness and power, not weakness and 
misery. Somehow or other this misery has come. The crude systems may call it a personified 
evil, a devil, or an Ahriman, to explain how this misery came. Other systems may try to make 
a God and a devil in one, who makes some people miserable and others happy, without any 
reason whatever. Others again, more thoughtful, bring in the theory of Maya and so forth. But 
one fact stands out clearly, and it is with this that we have to deal. After all, these philosophical 
ideas and systems are but gymnastics of the mind, intellectual exercises. The one great idea 
that to me seems to be clear, and comes out through masses of superstition in every country 
and in every religion, is the one luminous idea that man is divine, that divinity is our nature. 

Whatever else comes is a mere superimposition, as the Vedanta calls it. Something has been 
superimposed, but that divine nature never dies. In the most degraded as well as in the most 
saintly it is ever present. It has to be called out, and it will work itself out. We have to ask and it 
will manifest itself. The people of old knew that fire lived in the flint and in dry wood, but friction 
was necessary to call it out. So this fire of freedom and purity is the nature of every soul, and 
not a quality, because qualities can be acquired and therefore can be lost. The soul is one 
with Freedom, and the soul is one with Existence, and the soul is one with Knowledge. The 
Sat-Chit-Ananda — Existence-Knowledge-Bliss Absolute — is the nature, the birthright of the 
Soul, and all the manifestations that we see are Its expressions, dimly or brightly manifesting 
Itself. Even death is but a manifestation of that Real Existence. Birth and death, life and decay, 
degeneration and regeneration — are all manifestations of that Oneness. So, knowledge, 
however it manifests itself, either as ignorance or as learning, is but the manifestation of that 
same Chit, the essence of knowledge; the difference is only in degree, and not in kind. The 
difference in knowledge between the lowest worm that crawls under our feet and the highest 
genius that the world may produce is only one of degree, and not of kind. The Vedantin thinker 
boldly says that the enjoyments in this life, even the most degraded joys, are but manifestations 
of that One Divine Bliss, the Essence of the Soul. 

This idea seems to be the most prominent in Vedanta, and, as I have said, it appears to me 
that every religion holds it. I have yet to know the religion which does not. It is the one universal 
idea working through all religions. Take the Bible for instance. You find there the allegorical 
statement that the first man Adam was pure, and that his purity was obliterated by his evil deeds 
afterwards. It is clear from this allegory that they thought that the nature of the primitive man 
was perfect. The impurities that we see, the weaknesses that we feel, are but superimpositions 
on that nature, and the subsequent history of the Christian religion shows that they also believe 
in the possibility, nay, the certainty of regaining that old state. This is the whole history of the 
Bible, Old and New Testaments together. So with the Mohammedans: they also believed in 
Adam and the purity of Adam, and through Mohammed the way was opened to regain that 
lost state. So with the Buddhists: they believe in the state called Nirvana which is beyond this 
relative world. It is exactly the same as the Brahman of the Vedantins, and the whole system of 
the Buddhists is founded upon the idea of regaining that lost state of Nirvana. In every system 
we find this doctrine present, that you cannot get anything which is not yours already. You 
are indebted to nobody in this universe. You claim your own birthright, as it has been most 
poetically expressed by a great Vedantin philosopher, in the title of one of his books — "The 
attainment of our own empire". That empire is ours; we have lost it and we have to regain it. The 
Mayavadin, however, says that this losing of the empire was a hallucination; you never lost it. 
This is the only difference. 

Although all the systems agree so far that we had the empire, and that we have lost it, they give 
us varied advice as to how to regain it. One says that you must perform certain ceremonies, 
pay certain sums of money to certain idols, eat certain sorts of food, live in a peculiar fashion to 



regain that empire. Another says that if you weep and prostrate yourselves and ask pardon of 
some Being beyond nature, you will regain that empire. Again, another says if you love such a 
Being with all your heart, you will regain that empire. All this varied advice is in the Upanishads. 
As I go on, you will find it so. But the last and the greatest counsel is that you need not weep 
at all. You need not go through all these ceremonies, and need not take any notice of how to 
regain your empire, because you never lost it. Why should you go to seek for what you never 
lost? You are pure already, you are free already. If you think you are free, free you are this 
moment, and if you think you are bound, bound you will be. This is a very bold statement, 
and as I told you at the beginning of this course, I shall have to speak to you very boldly. It 
may frighten you now, but when you think over it, and realise it in your own life, then you will 
come to know that what I say is true. For, supposing that freedom is not your nature, by no 
manner of means can you become free. Supposing you were free and in some way you lost that 
freedom, that shows that you were not free to begin with. Had you been free, what could have 
made you lose it? The independent can never be made dependent; if it is really dependent, its 
independence was a hallucination. 

Of the two sides, then, which will you take? If you say that the soul was by its own nature pure 
and free, it naturally follows that there was nothing in this universe which could make it bound 
or limited. But if there was anything in nature which could bind the soul, it naturally follows that it 
was not free, and your statement that it was free is a delusion. So if it is possible for us to attain 
to freedom, the conclusion is inevitable that the soul is by its nature free. It cannot be otherwise. 
Freedom means independence of anything outside, and that means that nothing outside itself 
could work upon it as a cause. The soul is causeless, and from this follow all the great ideas 
that we have. You cannot establish the immortality of the soul, unless you grant that it is by its 
nature free, or in other words, that it cannot be acted upon by anything outside. For death is 
an effect produced by some outside cause. I drink poison and I die, thus showing that my body 
can be acted upon by something outside that is called poison. But if it be true that the soul is 
free, it naturally follows that nothing can affect it, and it can never die. Freedom, immortality, 
blessedness, all depend upon the soul being beyond the law of causation, beyond this Maya. Of 
these two which will you take? Either make the first a delusion, or make the second a delusion. 
Certainly I will make the second a delusion. It is more consonant with all my feelings and 
aspirations. I am perfectly aware that I am free by nature, and I will not admit that this bondage 
is true and my freedom a delusion. 

This discussion goes on in all philosophies, in some form or other. Even in the most modern 
philosophies you find the same discussion arising. There are two parties. One says that there 
is no soul, that the idea of soul is a delusion produced by the repeated transit of particles or 
matter, bringing about the combination which you call the body or brain; that the impression 
of freedom is the result of the vibrations and motions and continuous transit of these particles. 
There were Buddhistic sects who held the same view and illustrated it by this example: If young 
take a torch and whirl it round rapidly, there will be a circle of light. That circle does not really 
exist, because the torch is changing place every moment. We are but bundles of little particles, 
which in their rapid whirling produce the delusion of a permanent soul. The other party states 
that in the rapid succession of thought, matter occurs as a delusion, and does not really exist. 
So we see one side claiming that spirit is a delusion and the other, that matter is a delusion. 
Which side will you take? Of course, we will take the spirit and deny matter. The arguments 
are similar for both, only on the spirit side the argument is little stronger. For nobody has ever 
seen what matter is. We can only feel ourselves. I never knew a man who could feel matter 
outside of himself. Nobody was ever able to jump outside of himself. Therefore the argument is 
a little stronger on the side of the spirit. Secondly, the spirit theory explains the universe, whiles 
materialism does not. Hence the materialistic explanation is illogical. If you boil down all the 



philosophies and analyse them, you will find that they are reduced to one; or the other of these 
two positions. So here, too, in a more intricate form, in a more philosophical form, we find the 
same question about natural purity and freedom. Ones side says that the first is a delusion, and 
the other, that the second is a delusion. And, of course, we side with the second, in believing 
that our bondage is a delusion. 

The solution of the Vedanta is that we are not bound, we are free already. Not only so, but to 
say or to think that we are bound is dangerous — it is a mistake, it is self-hypnotism. As soon 
as you say, "I am bound," "I am weak," "I am helpless," woe unto you; you rivet one more chain 
upon yourself. Do not say it, do not think it. I have heard of a man who lived in a forest and used 
to repeat day and night, "Shivoham" — I am the Blessed One — and one day a tiger fell upon 
him and dragged him away to kill him; people on the other side of the river saw it, and heard 
the voice so long as voice remained in him, saying, "Shivoham" — even in the very jaws of 
the tiger. There have been many such men. There have been cases of men who, while being 
cut to pieces, have blessed their enemies. "I am He, I am He; and so art thou. I am pure and 
perfect and so are all my enemies. You are He, and so am I." That is - the position of strength. 
Nevertheless, there are great and wonderful things in the religions of the dualists; wonderful 
is the idea of the Personal God apart from nature, whom we worship and love. Sometimes 
this idea is very soothing. But, says the Vedanta, the soothing is something like the effect that 
comes from an opiate, not natural. It brings weakness in the long run, and what this world wants 
today, more than it ever did before, is strength. It is weakness, says the Vedanta, which is the 
cause of all misery in this world. Weakness is the one cause of suffering. We become miserable 
because we are weak. We lie, steal, kill, and commit other crimes, because we are weak. We 
suffer because we are weak. We die because we are weak. Where there is nothing to weaken 
us, there is no death nor sorrow. We are miserable through delusion. Give up the delusion, 
and the whole thing vanishes. It is plain and simple indeed. Through all these philosophical 
discussions and tremendous mental gymnastics we come to this one religious idea, the simplest 
in the whole world. 

The monistic Vedanta is the simplest form in which you can put truth. To teach dualism was a 
tremendous mistake made in India and elsewhere, because people did not look at the ultimate 
principles, but only thought of the process which is very intricate indeed. To many, these 
tremendous philosophical and logical propositions were alarming. They thought these things 
could not be made universal, could not be followed in everyday practical life, and that under the 
guise of such a philosophy much laxity of living would arise. 

But I do not believe at all that monistic ideas preached to the world would produce immorality 
and weakness. On the contrary, I have reason to believe that it is the only remedy there is. If 
this be the truth, why let people drink ditch water when the stream of life is flowing by? If this 
be the truth, that they are all pure, why not at this moment teach it to the whole world? Why not 
teach it with the voice of thunder to every man that is born, to saints and sinners, men, women, 
and children, to the man on the throne and to the man sweeping the streets? 

It appears now a very big and a very great undertaking; to many it appears very startling, but 
that is because of superstition, nothing else. By eating all sorts of bad and indigestible food, or 
by starving ourselves, we are incompetent to eat a good meal. We have listened to words of 
weakness from our childhood. You hear people say that they do not believe in ghosts, but at the 
same time, there are very few who do not get a little creepy sensation in the dark. It is simply 
superstition. So with all religious superstitions There are people in this country who, if I told 
them there was no such being as the devil, will think all religion is gone. Many people have said 
to me, how can there be religion without a devil? How can there be religion without someone to 



direct us? How can we live without being ruled by somebody? We like to be so treated, because 
we have become used to it. We are not happy until we feel we have been reprimanded by 
somebody every day. The same superstition! But however terrible it may seem now, the time 
will come when we shall look back, each one of us, and smile at every one of those 
superstitions which covered the pure and eternal soul, and repeat with gladness, with truth, and 
with strength, I am free, and was free, and always will be free. This monistic idea will come out 
of Vedanta, and it is the one idea that deserves to live. The scriptures may perish tomorrow. 
Whether this idea first flashed into the brains of Hebrews or of people living in the Arctic 
regions, nobody cares. For this is the truth and truth is eternal; and truth itself teaches that it is 
not the special property of any individual or nation. Men, animals, and gods are all common 
recipients of this one truth. Let them all receive it. Why make life miserable? Why let people fall 
into all sorts of superstitions? I will give ten thousand lives, if twenty of them will give up their 
superstition. Not only in this country, but in the land of its very birth, if you tell people this truth, 
they are frightened. They say, "This idea is for Sannyasins who give up the world and live in 
forests; for them it is all right. But for us poor householders, we must all have some sort of fear, 
we must have ceremonies," and so on. 

Dualistic ideas have ruled the world long enough, and this is the result. Why not make a new 
experiment? It may take ages for all minds to receive monism, but why not begin now? If we 
have told it to twenty persons in our lives, we have done a great work. 

There is one idea which often militates against it. It is this. It is all very well to say, "I am the 
Pure, the Blessed," but I cannot show it always in my life. That is true; the ideal is always very 
hard. Every child that is born sees the sky overhead very far away, but is that any reason why 
we should not look towards the sky? Would it mend matters to go towards superstition? If we 
cannot get nectar, would it mend matters for us to drink poison? Would it be any help for us, 
because we cannot realise the truth immediately, to go into darkness and yield to weakness and 
superstition? 

I have no objection to dualism in many of its forms. I like most of them, but I have objections to 
every form of teaching which inculcates weakness. This is the one question I put to every man, 
woman, or child, when they are in physical, mental, or spiritual training. Are you strong? Do you 
feel strength? — for I know it is truth alone that gives strength. I know that truth alone gives life, 
and nothing but going towards reality will make us strong, and none will reach truth until he is 
strong. Every system, therefore, which weakens the mind, makes one superstitious, makes one 
mope, makes one desire all sorts of wild impossibilities, mysteries, and superstitions, I do not 
like, because its effect is dangerous. Such systems never bring any good; such things create 
morbidity in the mind, make it weak, so weak that in course of time it will be almost impossible 
to receive truth or live up to it. Strength, therefore, is the one thing needful. Strength is the 
medicine for the world's disease. Strength is the medicine which the poor must have when 
tyrannised over by the rich. Strength is the medicine that the ignorant must have when 
oppressed by the learned; and it is the medicine that sinners must have when tyrannised over 
by other sinners; and nothing gives such strength as this idea of monism. Nothing makes us so 
moral as this idea of monism. Nothing makes us work so well at our best and highest as when 
all the responsibility is thrown upon ourselves. I challenge everyone of you. How will you 
behave if I put a little baby in your hands? Your whole life will be changed for the moment; 
whatever you may be, you must become selfless for the time being. You will give up all your 
criminal ideas as soon as responsibility is thrown upon you — your whole character will change. 
So if the whole responsibility is thrown upon our own shoulders, we shall be at our highest and 
best; when we have nobody to grope towards, no devil to lay our blame upon, no Personal God 
to carry our burdens, when we are alone responsible, then we shall rise to our highest and best. 



I am responsible for my fate, I am the bringer of good unto myself, I am the bringer of evil. I am 
the Pure and Blessed One. We must reject all thoughts that assert the contrary. "I have neither 
death nor fear, I have neither caste nor creed, I have neither father nor mother nor brother, 
neither friend nor foe, for I am Existence, Knowledge, and Bliss Absolute; I am the Blissful One, 
I am the Blissful One. I am not bound either by virtue or vice, by happiness or misery. 
Pilgrimages and books and ceremonials can never bind me. I have neither hunger nor thirst; the 
body is not mine, nor am I subject to the superstitions and decay that come to the body, I am 
Existence, Knowledge, and Bliss Absolute; I am the Blissful One, I am the Blissful One." 

This, says the Vedanta, is the only prayer that we should have. This is the only way to reach the 
goal, to tell ourselves, and to tell everybody else, that we are divine. And as we go on repeating 
this, strength comes. He who falters at first will get stronger and stronger, and the voice will 
increase in volume until the truth takes possession of our hearts, and courses through our veins, 
and permeates our bodies. Delusion will vanish as the light becomes more and more effulgent, 
load after load of ignorance will vanish, and then will come a time when all else has disappeared 
and the Sun alone shines. 



CHAPTER XI 
THE COSMOS: The Macrocosm 

(Delivered in New York, 19th January 1896) 

The flowers that we see all around us are beautiful, beautiful is the rising of the morning sun, 
beautiful are the variegated hues of nature. The whole universe is beautiful, and man has been 
enjoying it since his appearance on earth. Sublime and awe-inspiring are the mountains; the 
gigantic rushing rivers rolling towards the sea, the trackless deserts, the infinite ocean, the 
starry heavens — all these are awe-inspiring, sublime, and beautiful indeed. The whole mass 
of existence which we call nature has been acting on the human mind since time immemorial. 
It has been acting on the thought of man, and as its reaction has come out the question: What 
are these, whence are they? As far back as the time of the oldest portion of that most ancient 
human composition, the Vedas, we find the same question asked: "Whence is this? When 
there was neither aught nor naught, and darkness was hidden in darkness, who projected 
this universe? How? Who knows the secret?" And the question has come down to us at the 
present time. Millions of attempts have been made to answer it, yet millions of times it will have 
to be answered again. It is not that each answer was a failure; every answer to this question 
contained a part of truth, and this truth gathers strength as time rolls on. I will try to present 
before you the outline of the answer that I have gathered from the ancient philosophers of India; 
in harmony with modern knowledge. 

We find that in this oldest of questions a few points had been already solved. The first is that 
there was a time when there was "neither aught nor naught", when this world did not exist; our 
mother earth with the seas and oceans, the rivers, and mountains, cities and villages human 
races, animals, plants, birds, and planets and luminaries, all this infinite variety of creation, had 
no existence. Are we sure of that? We will try to trace how this conclusion is arrived at. What 
does man see around him? Take a little plant. He puts a seed in the ground, and later, he finds 
a plant peep out, lift itself slowly above the ground, and grow and grow, till it becomes a gigantic 
tree. Then it dies, leaving only the seed. It completes the circle — it comes out of the seed, 
becomes the tree, and ends in the seed again. Look at a bird, how from the egg it springs, lives 
its life, and then dies, leaving other eggs, seeds of future birds. So with the animals, so with 
man. Everything in nature begins, as it were, from certain seeds, certain rudiments, certain fine 
forms, and becomes grosser and grosser, and develops, going on that way for a certain time, 
and then again goes back to that fine form, and subsides. The raindrop in which the beautiful 
sunbeam is playing was drawn in the form of vapour from the ocean, went far away into the air, 
and reached a region where it changed into water, and dropped down in its present form — to 
be converted into vapour again. So with everything in nature by which we are surrounded. We 
know that the huge mountains are being worked upon by glaciers and rivers, which are slowly 
but surely pounding them and pulverising them into sand, that drifts away into the ocean where 
it settles down on its bed, layer after layer, becoming hard as rocks, once more to be heaped up 
into mountains of a future generation. Again they will be pounded and pulverised, and thus the 
course goes on. From sand rise these mountains; unto sand they go. 

If it be true that nature is uniform throughout, if it be true, and so far no human experience 
has contradicted it, that the same method under which a small grain of sand is created, works 



in creating the gigantic suns and stars and all this universe, if it be true that the whole of this 
universe is built on exactly the same plan as the atom, if it be true that the same law prevails 
throughout the universe, then, as it has been said in the Vedas, "Knowing one lump of clay we 
know the nature of all the clay that is in the universe." Take up a little plant and study its life, and 
we know the universe as it is. If we know one grain of sand, we understand the secret of the 
whole universe. Applying this course of reasoning to phenomena, we find, in the first place, that 
everything is almost similar at the beginning and the end. The mountain comes from the sand, 
and goes back to the sand; the river comes out of vapour, and goes back to vapour; plant life 
comes from the seed, and goes back to the seed; human life comes out of human germs, and 
goes back to human germs. The universe with its stars and planets has come out of a nebulous 
state and must go back to it. What do we learn from this? That the manifested or the grosser 
state is the effect, and the finer state the cause. Thousands of years ago, it was demonstrated 
by Kapila, the great father of all philosophy, that destruction means going back to the cause. If 
this table here is destroyed, it will go back to its cause, to those fine forms and particles which, 
combined, made this form which we call a table. If a man dies, he will go back to the elements 
which gave him his body; if this earth dies, it will go back to the elements which gave it form. 
This is what is called destruction, going back to the cause. Therefore we learn that the effect 
is the same as the cause, not different. It is only in another form. This glass is an effect, and 
it had its cause, and this cause is present in this form. A certain amount of the material called 
glass plus the force in the hands of the manufacturer, are the causes, the instrumental and the 
material, which, combined, produced this form called a glass. The force which was in the hands 
of the manufacturer is present in the glass as the power of adhesion, without which the particles 
would fall apart; and the glass material is also present. The glass is only a manifestation of 
these fine causes in a new shape, and if it be broken to pieces, the force which was present in 
the form of adhesion will go back and join its own element, and the particles of glass will remain 
the same until they take new forms. 

Thus we find that the effect is never different from the cause. It is only that this effect is a 
reproduction of the cause in a grosser form. Next, we learn that all these particular forms which 
we call plants, animals, or men are being repeated ad infinitum, rising and falling. The seed 
produces the tree. The tree produces the seed, which again comes up as another tree, and so 
on and on; there is no end to it. Water-drops roll down the mountains into the ocean, and rise 
again as vapour, go back to the mountains and again come down to the ocean. So, rising and 
falling, the cycle goes on. So with all lives, so with all existence that we can see, feel, hear, or 
imagine. Everything that is within the bounds of our knowledge is proceeding in the same way, 
like breathing in and breathing out in the human body. Everything in creation goes on in this 
form, one wave rising, another falling, rising again, falling again. Each wave has its hollow, each 
hollow has its wave. The same law must apply to the universe taken as a whole, because of its 
uniformity. This universe must be resolved into its causes; the sun, moon, stars, and earth, the 
body and mind, and everything in this universe must return to their finer causes, disappear, be 
destroyed as it were. But they will live in the causes as fine forms. Out of these fine forms they 
will emerge again as new earths, suns, moons, and stars. 

There is one fact more to learn about this rising and falling. The seed comes out of the tree; 
it does not immediately become a tree, but has a period of inactivity, or rather, a period of 
very fine unmanifested action. The seed has to work for some time beneath the soil. It breaks 
into pieces, degenerates as it were, and regeneration comes out of that degeneration. In the 
beginning, the whole of this universe has to work likewise for a period in that minute form, 
unseen and unmanifested, which is called chaos, and; out of that comes a new projection. 
The whole period of one manifestation of this universe — its going down into the finer form, 
remaining there for some time, and coming out again — is, in Sanskrit, called a Kalpa or a 



Cycle. Next comes a very important question especially for modern; times. We see that the 
finer forms develop slowly and slowly, and gradually becomes grosser and grosser. We have 
seen that the cause is the same as the effect, and the effect is only the cause in another form. 
Therefore this whole universe cannot be produced out of nothing. Nothing comes without a 
cause, and the cause is the effect in another form. 

Out of what has this universe been produced then? From a preceding fine universe. Out of what 
has men been produced? The preceding fine form. Out of what has the tree been produced? 
Out of the seed; the whole of the tree was there in the seed. It comes out and becomes 
manifest. So, the whole of this universe has been created out of this very universe existing in 
a minute form. It has been made manifest now. It will go back to that minute form, and again 
will be made manifest. Now we find that the fine forms slowly come out and become grosser 
and grosser until they reach their limit, and when they reach their limit they go back further and 
further, becoming finer and finer again. This coming out of the fine and becoming gross, simply 
changing the arrangements of its parts, as it were, is what in modern times called evolution. 
This is very true, perfectly true; we see it in our lives. No rational man can possibly quarrel with 
these evolutionists. But we have to learn one thing more. We have to go one step further, and 
what is that? That every evolution is preceded by an involution. The seed is the father of the 
tree, but another tree was itself the father of the seed. The seed is the fine form out of which the 
big tree comes, and another big tree was the form which is involved in that seed. The whole of 
this universe was present in the cosmic fine universe. The little cell, which becomes afterwards 
the man, was simply the involved man and becomes evolved as a man. If this is clear, we 
have no quarrel with the evolutionists, for we see that if they admit this step, instead of their 
destroying religion, they will be the greatest supporters of it. 

We see then, that nothing can be created out of nothing. Everything exists through eternity, and 
will exist through eternity. Only the movement is in succeeding waves and hollows, going back 
to fine forms, and coming out into gross manifestations. This involution and evolution is going 
on throughout the whole of nature. The whole series of evolution beginning with the lowest 
manifestation of life and reaching up to the highest, the most perfect man, must have been 
the involution of something else. The question is: The involution of what? What was involved? 
God. The evolutionist will tell you that your idea that it was God is wrong. Why? Because you 
see God is intelligent, but we find that intelligence develops much later on in the course of 
evolution. It is in man and the higher animals that we find intelligence, but millions of years have 
passed in this world before this intelligence came. This objection of the evolutionists does not 
hold water, as we shall see by applying our theory. The tree comes out of the seed, goes back 
to the seed; the beginning and the end are the same. The earth comes out of its cause and 
returns to it. We know that if we can find the beginning we can find the end. E converso, if we 
find the end we can find the beginning. If that is so, take this whole evolutionary series, from the 
protoplasm at one end to the perfect man at the other, and this whole series is one life. In the 
end we find the perfect man, so in the beginning it must have been the same. Therefore, the 
protoplasm was the involution of the highest intelligence. You may not see it but that involved 
intelligence is what is uncoiling itself until it becomes manifested in the most perfect man. That 
can be mathematically demonstrated. If the law of conservation of energy is true, you cannot 
get anything out of a machine unless you put it in there first. The amount of work that you get 
out of an engine is exactly the same as you have put into it in the form of water and coal, neither 
more nor less. The work I am doing now is just what I put into me, in the shape of air, food, and 
other things. It is only a question of change and manifestation. There cannot be added in the 
economy of this universe one particle of matter or one foot-pound of force, nor can one particle 
of matter or one foot-pound of force be taken out. If that be the case, what is this intelligence? 
If it was not present in the protoplasm, it must have come all of a sudden, something coming 



out of nothing, which is absurd. It, therefore, follows absolutely that the perfect man, the free 
man, the God-man, who has gone beyond the laws of nature, and transcended everything, who 
has no more to go through this process of evolution, through birth and death, that man called 
the "Christ-man" by the Christians, and the "Buddha-man" by the Buddhists, and the "Free" by 
the Yogis — that perfect man who is at one end of the chain of evolution was involved in the cell 
of the protoplasm, which is at the other end of the same chain. 

Applying the same reason to the whole of the universe, we see that intelligence must be the 
Lord of creation, the cause. What is the most evolved notion that man has of this universe? It 
is intelligence, the adjustment of part to part, the display of intelligence, of which the ancient 
design theory was an attempt at expression. The beginning was, therefore, intelligence. At the 
beginning that intelligence becomes involved, and in the end that intelligence gets evolved. The 
sum total of the intelligence displayed in the universe must, therefore, be the involved universal 
intelligence unfolding itself. This universal intelligence is what we call God. Call it by any other 
name, it is absolutely certain that in the beginning there is that Infinite cosmic intelligence. This 
cosmic intelligence gets involved, and it manifests, evolves itself, until it becomes the perfect 
man, the "Christ-man," the "Buddha-man." Then it goes back to its own source. That is why all 
the scriptures say, "In Him we live and move and have our being." That is why all the scriptures 
preach that we come from God and go back to God. Do not be frightened by theological terms; 
if terms frighten you, you are not fit to be philosophers. This cosmic intelligence is what the 
theologians call God. 

I have been asked many times, "Why do you use that old word, God? " Because it is the 
best word for our purpose; you cannot find a better word than that, because all the hopes, 
aspirations, and happiness of humanity have been centred in that word. It is impossible now to 
change the word. Words like these were first coined by great saints who realised their import 
and understood their meaning. But as they become current in society, ignorant people take 
these words, and the result is that they lose their spirit and glory. The word God has been used 
from time immemorial, and the idea of this cosmic intelligence, and all that is great and holy, is 
associated with it. Do you mean to say that because some fool says it is not all right, we should 
throw it away? Another man may come and say, "Take my word," and another again, "Take 
my word." So there will be no end to foolish words. Use the old word, only use it in the true 
spirit, cleanse it of superstition, and realise fully what this great ancient word means. If you 
understand the power of the laws of association, you will know that these words are associated 
with innumerable majestic and powerful ideas; they have been used and worshipped by millions 
of human souls and associated by them with all that is highest and best, all that is rational, all 
that is lovable, and all that is great and grand in human nature. And they come as suggestions 
of these associations, and cannot be given up. If I tried to express all these by only telling you 
that God created the universe, it would have conveyed no meaning to you. Yet, after all this 
struggle, we have come back to Him, the Ancient and Supreme One. 

We now see that all the various forms of cosmic energy, such as matter, thought, force, 
intelligence and so forth, are simply the manifestations of that cosmic intelligence, or, as we 
shall call it henceforth, the Supreme Lord. Everything that you see, feel, or hear, the whole 
universe, is His creation, or to be a little more accurate, is His projection; or to be still more 
accurate, is the Lord Himself. It is He who is shining as the sun and the stars, He is the mother 
earth. He is the ocean Himself. He comes as gentle showers, He is the gentle air that we 
breathe in, and He it is who is working as force in the body. He is the speech that is uttered, He 
is the man who is talking. He is the audience that is here. He is the platform on which I stand, 
He is the light that enables me to see your faces. It is all He. He Himself is both the material 
and the efficient cause of this universe, and He it is that gets involved in the minute cell, and 



evolves at the other end and becomes God again. He it is that comes down and becomes 
the lowest atom, and slowly unfolding His nature, rejoins Himself. This is the mystery of the 
universe. "Thou art the man, Thou art the woman, Thou art the strong man walking in the pride 
of youth, Thou art the old man tottering on crutches, Thou art in everything. Thou art everything, 
O Lord." This is the only solution of the Cosmos that satisfies the human intellect. In one word, 
we are born of Him, we live in Him, and unto Him we return. 



CHAPTER XII 
THE COSMOS: The Microcosm 

{Delivered in New York, 26th January 1896) 

The human mind naturally wants to get outside, to peer out of the body, as it were, through 
the channels of the organs. The eye must see, the ear must hear, the senses must sense the 
external world — and naturally the beauties and sublimities of nature captivate the attention 
of man first. The first questions that arose in the human soul were about the external world. 
The solution of the mystery was asked of the sky, of the stars, of the heavenly bodies, of the 
earth, of the rivers, of the mountains, of the ocean; and in all ancient religions we find traces 
of how the groping human mind at first caught at everything external. There was a river-god, 
a sky-god, a cloud-god, a rain-god; everything external, all of which we now call the powers of 
nature, became metamorphosed, transfigured, into wills, into gods, into heavenly messengers. 
As the question went deeper and deeper, these external manifestations failed to satisfy the 
human mind, and finally the energy turned inward, and the question was asked of man's own 
soul. From the macrocosm the question was reflected back to the microcosm; from the external 
world the question was reflected to the internal. From analysing the external nature, man is 
led to analyse the internal; this questioning of the internal man comes with a higher state of 
civilisation, with a deeper insight into nature, with a higher state of growth. 

The subject of discussion this afternoon is this internal man. No question is so near and dear to 
man's heart as that of the internal man. How many millions of times, in how many countries has 
this question been asked! Sages and kings, rich and poor, saints and sinners, every man, every 
woman, all have from time to time asked this question. Is there nothing permanent in this 
evanescent human life? Is there nothing, they have asked, which does not die away when this 
body dies? Is there not something living when this frame crumbles into dust? Is there not 
something which survives the fire which burns the body into ashes? And if so, what is its 
destiny? Where does it go? Whence did it come? These questions have been asked again and 
again, and so long as this creation lasts, so long as there are human brains to think, this 
question will have to be asked. Yet, it is not that the answer did not come; each time the answer 
came, and as time rolls on, the answer will gain strength more and more. The question was 
answered once for all thousands of years ago, and through all subsequent time it is being 
restated, reillustrated, made clearer to our intellect. What we have to do, therefore, is to make a 
restatement of the answer. We do not pretend to throw any new light on those all-absorbing 
problems, but only to put before you the ancient truth in the language of modern times, to speak 
the thoughts of the ancients in the language of the moderns, to speak the thoughts of the 
philosophers in the language of the people, to speak the thoughts of the angels in the language 
of man, to speak the thoughts of God in the language of poor humanity, so that man will 
understand them; for the same divine essence from which the ideas emanated is ever present 
in man, and, therefore, he can always understand them. 

I am looking at you. How many things are necessary for this vision? First, the eyes. For if I am 
perfect in every other way, and yet have no eyes, I shall not be able to see you. Secondly, the 
real organ of vision. For the eyes are not the organs. They are but the instruments of vision, 
and behind them is the real organ, the nerve centre in the brain. If that centre be injured, a man 



may have the clearest pair of eyes, yet he will not be able to see anything. So, it is necessary 
that this centre, or the real organ, be there. Thus, with all our senses. The external ear is but 
the instrument for carrying the vibration of sound inward to the centre. Yet, that is not sufficient. 
Suppose in your library you are intently reading a book, and the clock strikes, yet you do not 
hear it. The sound is there, the pulsations in the air are there, the ear and the centre are also 
there, and these vibrations have been carried through the ear to the centre, and yet you do not 
hear it. What is wanting? The mind is not there. Thus we see that the third thing necessary is, 
that the mind must be there. First the external instruments, then the organ to which this external 
instrument will carry the sensation, and lastly the organ itself must be joined to the mind. When 
the mind is not joined to the organ, the organ and the ear may take the impression, and yet we 
shall not be conscious of it. The mind, too, is only the carrier; it has to carry the sensation still 
forward, and present it to the intellect. The intellect is the determining faculty and decides upon 
what is brought to it. Still this is not sufficient. The intellect must carry it forward and present the 
whole thing before the ruler in the body, the human soul, the king on the throne. Before him this 
is presented, and then from him comes the order, what to do or what not to do; and the order 
goes down in the same sequence to the intellect, to the mind, to the organs, and the organs 
convey it to the instruments, and the perception is complete. 

The instruments are in the external body, the gross body of man; but the mind and the intellect 
are not. They are in what is called in Hindu philosophy the finer body; and what in Christian 
theology you read of as the spiritual body of man; finer, very much finer than the body, and 
yet not the soul. This soul is beyond them all. The external body perishes in a few years; 
any simple cause may disturb and destroy it. The finer body is not so easily perishable; yet 
it sometimes degenerates, and at other times becomes strong. We see how, in the old man, 
the mind loses its strength, how, when the body is vigorous, the mind becomes vigorous, how 
various medicines and drugs affect it, how everything external acts on it, and how it reacts on 
the external world. Just as the body has its progress and decadence, so also has the mind, 
and, therefore, the mind is not the soul, because the soul can neither decay nor degenerate. 
How can we know that? How can we know that there is something behind this mind? Because 
knowledge which is self-illuminating and the basis of intelligence cannot belong to dull, dead 
matter. Never was seen any gross matter which had intelligence as its own essence. No dull 
or dead matter can illumine itself. It is intelligence that illumines all matter. This hall is here 
only through intelligence because, as a hall, its existence would be unknown unless some 
intelligence built it. This body is not self-luminous; if it were, it would be so in a dead man also. 
Neither can the mind nor the spiritual body be self-luminous. They are not of the essence of 
intelligence. That which is self-luminous cannot decay. The luminosity of that which shines 
through a borrowed light comes and goes; but that which is light itself, what can make that come 
and go, flourish and decay? We see that the moon waxes and wanes, because it shines through 
the borrowed light of the sun. If a lump of iron is put into the fire and made red-hot, it glows and 
shines, but its light will vanish, because it is borrowed. So, decadence is possible only of that 
light which is borrowed and is not of its own essence. 

Now we see that the body, the external shape, has no light as its own essence, is not self- 
luminous, and cannot know itself; neither can the mind. Why not? Because the mind waxes 
and wanes, because it is vigorous at one time and weak at another, because it can be acted 
upon by anything and everything. Therefore the light which shines through the mind is not its 
own. Whose is it then? It must belong to that which has it as its own essence, and as such, can 
never decay or die, never become stronger or weaker; it is self-luminous, it is luminosity itself. 
It cannot be that the soul knows, it is knowledge. It cannot be that the soul has existence, but 
it is existence. It cannot be that the soul is happy, it is happiness itself. That which is happy 
has borrowed its happiness; that which has knowledge has received its knowledge; and that 



which has relative existence has only a reflected existence. Wherever there are qualities these 
qualities have been reflected upon the substance, but the soul has not knowledge, existence, 
and blessedness as its qualities, they are the essence of the soul. 

Again, it may be asked, why shall we take this for granted? Why shall we admit that the soul 
has knowledge, blessedness, existence, as its essence, and has not borrowed them? It may be 
argued, why not say that the soul's luminosity, the soul's blessedness, the soul's knowledge, are 
borrowed in the same way as the luminosity of the body is borrowed from the mind? The fallacy 
of arguing in this way will be that there will be no limit. From whom were these borrowed? If we 
say from some other source, the same question will be asked again. So, at last we shall have to 
come to one who is self-luminous; to make matters short then, the logical way is to stop where 
we get self-luminosity, and proceed no further. 

We see, then, that this human being is composed first of this external covering, the body; 
secondly, the finer body, consisting of mind, intellect, and egoism. Behind them is the real Self 
of man. We have seen that all the qualities and powers of the gross body are borrowed from the 
mind, and the mind, the finer body, borrows its powers and luminosity from the soul, standing 
behind. 

A great many questions now arise about the nature of this soul. If the existence of the soul is 
drawn from the argument that it is self-luminous, that knowledge, existence, blessedness are its 
essence, it naturally follows that this soul cannot have been created. A self-luminous existence, 
independent of any other existence, could never have been the outcome of anything. It always 
existed; there was never a time when it did not exist, because if the soul did not exist, where 
was time? Time is in the soul; it is when the soul reflects its powers on the mind and the mind 
thinks, that time comes. When there was no soul, certainly there was no thought, and without 
thought, there was no time. How can the soul, therefore, be said to be existing in time, when 
time itself exists in the soul? It has neither birth nor death, but it is passing through all these 
various stages. It is manifesting slowly and gradually from lower to higher, and so on. It is 
expressing its own grandeur, working through the mind on the body; and through the body it is 
grasping the external world and understanding it. It takes up a body and uses it; and when that 
body has failed and is used up, it takes another body; and so on it goes. 

Here comes a very interesting question, that question which is generally known as the 
reincarnation of the soul. Sometimes people get frightened at the idea, and superstition is so 
strong that thinking men even believe that they are the outcome of nothing, and then, with the 
grandest logic, try to deduce the theory that although they have come out of zero, they will be 
eternal ever afterwards. Those that come out of zero will certainly have to go back to zero. 
Neither you, nor I nor anyone present, has come out of zero, nor will go back to zero. We have 
been existing eternally, and will exist, and there is no power under the sun or above the sun 
which can undo your or my existence or send us back to zero. Now this idea of reincarnation is 
not only not a frightening idea, but is most essential for the moral well-being of the human race. 
It is the only logical conclusion that thoughtful men can arrive at. If you are going to exist in 
eternity hereafter, it must be that you have existed through eternity in the past: it cannot be 
otherwise. I will try to answer a few objections that are generally brought against the theory. 
Although many of you will think they are very silly objections, still we have to answer them, for 
sometimes we find that the most thoughtful men are ready to advance the silliest ideas. Well 
has it been said that there never was an idea so absurd that it did not find philosophers to 
defend it. The first objection is, why do we not remember our past? Do we remember all our 
past in this life? How many of you remember what you did when you were babies? None of you 
remember your early childhood, and if upon memory depends your existence, then this 



argument proves that you did not exist as babies, because you do not remember your 
babyhood. It is simply unmitigated nonsense to say that our existence depends on our 
remembering it. Why should we remember the past? That brain is gone, broken into pieces, and 
a new brain has been manufactured. What has come to this brain is the resultant, the sum total 
of the impressions acquired in our past, with which the mind has come to inhabit the new body. 

I, as I stand here, am the effect, the result, of all the infinite past which is tacked on to me. 
And why is it necessary for me to remember all the past? When a great ancient sage, a seer, 
or a prophet of old, who came face to face with the truth, says something, these modern men 
stand up and say, "Oh, he was a fool!" But just use another name, "Huxley says it, or Tyndall"; 
then it must be true, and they take it for granted. In place of ancient superstitions they have 
erected modern superstitions, in place of the old Popes of religion they have installed modern 
Popes of science. So we see that this objection as to memory is not valid, and that is about the 
only serious objection that is raised against this theory. Although we have seen that it is not 
necessary for the theory that there shall be the memory of past lives, yet at the same time, we 
are in a position to assert that there are instances which show that this memory does come, 
and that each one of us will get back this memory in that life in which he will become free. Then 
alone you will find that this world is but a dream; then alone you will realise in the soul of your 
soul that you are but actors and the world is a stage; then alone will the idea of non-attachment 
come to you with the power of thunder; then all this thirst for enjoyment, this clinging on to life 
and this world will vanish for ever; then the mind will see dearly as daylight how many times 
all these existed for you, how many millions of times you had fathers and mothers, sons and 
daughters, husbands and wives, relatives and friends, wealth and power. They came and went. 
How many times you were on the topmost crest of the wave, and how many times you were 
down at the bottom of despair! When memory will bring all these to you, then alone will you 
stand as a hero and smile when the world frowns upon you. Then alone will you stand up and 
say. "I care not for thee even, O Death, what terrors hast thou for me?" This will come to all. 

Are there any arguments, any rational proofs for this reincarnation of the soul? So far we have 
been giving the negative side, showing that the opposite arguments to disprove it are not valid. 
Are there any positive proofs? There are; and most valid ones, too. No other theory except that 
of reincarnation accounts for the wide divergence that we find between man and man in their 
powers to acquire knowledge. First, let us consider the process by means of which knowledge 
is acquired. Suppose I go into the street and see a dog. How do I know it is a dog? I refer it to 
my mind, and in my mind are groups of all my past experiences, arranged and pigeon-holed, as 
it were. As soon as a new impression comes, I take it up and refer it to some of the old pigeon- 
holes, and as soon as I find a group of the same impressions already existing, I place it in that 
group, and I am satisfied. I know it is a dog, because it coincides with the impressions already 
there. When I do not find the cognates of this new experience inside, I become dissatisfied. 
When, not finding the cognates of an impression, we become dissatisfied, this state of the mind 
is called "ignorance"; but, when, finding the cognates of an impression already existing, we 
become satisfied, this is called "knowledge". When one apple fell, men became dissatisfied. 
Then gradually they found out the group. What was the group they found? That all apples fell, 
so they called it "gravitation". Now we see that without a fund of already existing experience, 
any new experience would be impossible, for there would be nothing to which to refer the new 
impression. So, if, as some of the European philosophers think, a child came into the world with 
what they call tabula rasa, such a child would never attain to any degree of intellectual power, 
because he would have nothing to which to refer his new experiences. We see that the power of 
acquiring knowledge varies in each individual, and this shows that each one of us has come 
with his own fund of knowledge. Knowledge can only be got in one way, the way of experience; 
there is no other way to know. If we have not experienced it in this life, we must have 



experienced it in other lives. How is it that the fear of death is everywhere? A little chicken is just 
out of an egg and an eagle comes, and the chicken flies in fear to its mother. There is an old 
explanation (I should hardly dignify it by such a name). It is called instinct. What makes that little 
chicken just out of the egg afraid to die? How is it that as soon as a duckling hatched by a hen 
comes near water, it jumps into it and swims? It never swam before, nor saw anything swim. 
People call it instinct. It is a big word, but it leaves us where we were before. Let us study this 
phenomenon of instinct. A child begins to play on the piano. At first she must pay attention to 
every key she is fingering, and as she goes on and on for months and years, the playing 
becomes almost involuntary, instinctive. What was first done with conscious will does not 
require later on an effort of the will. This is not yet a complete proof. One half remains, and that 
is that almost all the actions which are now instinctive can be brought under the control of the 
will. Each muscle of the body can be brought under control. This is perfectly well known. So the 
proof is complete by this double method, that what we now call instinct is degeneration of 
voluntary actions; therefore, if the analogy applies to the whole of creation, if all nature is 
uniform, then what is instinct in lower animals, as well as in men, must be the degeneration of 
will. 

Applying the law we dwelt upon under macrocosm that each involution presupposes an 
evolution, and each evolution an involution, we see that instinct is involved reason. What we 
call instinct in men or animals must therefore be involved, degenerated, voluntary actions, and 
voluntary actions are impossible without experience. Experience started that knowledge, and 
that knowledge is there. The fear of death, the duckling taking to the water and all involuntary 
actions in the human being which have become instinctive, are the results of past experiences. 
So far we have proceeded very clearly, and so far the latest science is with us. But here comes 
one more difficulty. The latest scientific men are coming back to the ancient sages, and as 
far as they have done so, there is perfect agreement. They admit that each man and each 
animal is born with a fund of experience, and that all these actions in the mind are the result 
of past experience. "But what," they ask, "is the use of saying that that experience belongs to 
the soul? Why not say it belongs to the body, and the body alone? Why not say it is hereditary 
transmission?" This is the last question. Why not say that all the experience with which I am 
born is the resultant effect of all the past experience of my ancestors? The sum total of the 
experience from the little protoplasm up to the highest human being is in me, but it has come 
from body to body in the course of hereditary transmission. Where will the difficulty be? This 
question is very nice, and we admit some part of this hereditary transmission. How far? As far 
as furnishing the material. We, by our past actions, conform ourselves to a certain birth in a 
certain body, and the only suitable material for that body comes from the parents who have 
made themselves fit to have that soul as their offspring. 

The simple hereditary theory takes for granted the most astonishing proposition without any 
proof, that mental experience can be recorded in matters, that mental experience can be 
involved in matter. When I look at you in the lake of my mind there is a wave. That wave 
subsides, but it remains in fine form, as an impression. We understand a physical impression 
remaining in the body. But what proof is there for assuming that the mental impression can 
remain in the body, since the body goes to pieces? What carries it? Even granting it were 
possible for each mental impression to remain in the body, that every impression, beginning 
from the first man down to my father, was in my father's body, how could it be transmitted to 
me? Through the bioplasmic cell? How could that be? Because the father's body does not come 
to the child in toto. The same parents may have a number of children; then, from this theory of 
hereditary transmission, where the impression and the impressed (that is to say, material) are 
one, it rigorously follows that by the birth of every child the parents must lose a part of their own 
impressions, or, if the parents should transmit the whole of their impressions, then, after the 



birth of the first child, their minds would be a vacuum. 

Again, if in the bioplasmic cell the infinite amount of impressions from all time has entered, 
where and how is it? This is a most impossible position, and until these physiologists can prove 
how and where those impressions live in that cell, and what they mean by a mental impression 
sleeping in the physical cell, their position cannot be taken for granted. So far it is clear then, 
that this impression is in the mind, that the mind comes to take its birth and rebirth, and uses 
the material which is most proper for it, and that the mind which has made itself fit for only 
a particular kind of body will have to wait until it gets that material. This we understand. The 
theory then comes to this, that there is hereditary transmission so far as furnishing the material 
to the soul is concerned. But the soul migrates and manufactures body after body, and each 
thought we think, and each deed we do, is stored in it in fine forms, ready to spring up again 
and take a new shape. When I look at you a wave rises in my mind. It dives down, as it were, 
and becomes finer and finer, but it does not die. It is ready to start up again as a wave in the 
shape of memory. So all these impressions are in my mind, and when I die the resultant force 
of them will be upon me. A ball is here, and each one of us takes a mallet in his hands and 
strikes the ball from all sides; the ball goes from point to point in the room, and when it reaches 
the door it flies out. What does it carry out with it? The resultant of all these blows. That will 
give it its direction. So, what directs the soul when the body dies? The resultant, the sum total 
of all the works it has done, of the thoughts it has thought. If the resultant is such that it has 
to manufacture a new body for further experience, it will go to those parents who are ready to 
supply it with suitable material for that body. Thus, from body to body it will go, sometimes to a 
heaven, and back again to earth, becoming man, or some lower animal. This way it will go on 
until it has finished its experience, and completed the circle. It then knows its own nature, knows 
what it is, and ignorance vanishes, its powers become manifest, it becomes perfect; no more is 
there any necessity for the soul to work through physical bodies, nor is there any necessity for it 
to work through finer, or mental bodies. It shines in its own light, and is free, no more to be born, 
no more to die. 

We will not go now into the particulars of this. But I will bring before you one more point with 
regard to this theory of reincarnation. It is the theory that advances the freedom of the human 
soul. It is the one theory that does not lay the blame of all our weakness upon somebody 
else, which is a common human fallacy. We do not look at our own faults; the eyes do not see 
themselves, they see the eyes of everybody else. We human beings are very slow to recognise 
our own weakness, our own faults, so long as we can lay the blame upon somebody else. Men 
in general lay all the blame of life on their fellow-men, or, failing that, on God, or they conjure 
up a ghost, and say it is fate. Where is fate, and who is fate? We reap what we sow. We are the 
makers of our own fate. None else has the blame, none has the praise. The wind is blowing; 
those vessels whose sails are unfurled catch it, and go forward on their way, but those which 
have their sails furled do not catch the wind. Is that the fault of the wind? Is it the fault of the 
merciful Father, whose wind of mercy is blowing without ceasing, day and night, whose mercy 
knows no decay, is it His fault that some of us are happy and some unhappy? We make our 
own destiny. His sun shines for the weak as well as for the strong. His wind blows for saint and 
sinner alike. He is the Lord of all, the Father of all, merciful, and impartial. Do you mean to say 
that He, the Lord of creation, looks upon the petty things of our life in the same light as we do? 
What a degenerate idea of God that would be! We are like little puppies, making life-and-death 
struggles here, and foolishly thinking that even God Himself will take it as seriously as we do. 
He knows what the puppies' play means. Our attempts to lay the blame on Him, making Him the 
punisher, and the rewarder, are only foolish. He neither punishes, nor rewards any. His infinite 
mercy is open to every one, at all times, in all places, under all conditions, unfailing, unswerving. 
Upon us depends how we use it. Upon us depends how we utilise it. Blame neither man, nor 



God, nor anyone in the world. When you find yourselves suffering, blame yourselves, and try to 
do better. 

This is the only solution of the problem. Those that blame others — and, alas! the number of 
them is increasing every day — are generally miserable with helpless brains; they have brought 
themselves to that pass through their own mistakes and blame others, but this does not alter 
their position. It does not serve them in any way. This attempt to throw the blame upon others 
only weakens them the more. Therefore, blame none for your own faults, stand upon your own 
feet, and take the whole responsibility upon yourselves. Say, "This misery that I am suffering 
is of my own doing, and that very thing proves that it will have to be undone by me alone." 
That which I created, I can demolish; that which is created by some one else I shall never be 
able to destroy. Therefore, stand up, be bold, be strong. Take the whole responsibility on your 
own shoulders, and know that you are the creator of your own destiny. All the strength and 
succour you want is within yourselves. Therefore, make your own future. "Let the dead past 
bury its dead." The infinite future is before you, and you must always remember that each word, 
thought, and deed, lays up a store for you and that as the bad thoughts and bad works are 
ready to spring upon you like tigers, so also there is the inspiring hope that the good thoughts 
and good deeds are ready with the power of a hundred thousand angels to defend you always 
and for ever. 



CHAPTER XIII 
IMMORTALITY 

(Delivered in America) 

What question has been asked a greater number of times, what idea has led men more to 
search the universe for an answer, what question is nearer and dearer to the human heart, 
what question is more inseparably connected with our existence, than this one, the immortality 
of the human soul? It has been the theme of poets and sages, of priests and prophets; kings 
on the throne have discussed it, beggars in the street have dreamt of it. The best of humanity 
have approached it, and the worst of men have hoped for it. The interest in the theme has not 
died yet, nor will it die so long as human nature exists. Various answers have been presented 
to the world by various minds. Thousands, again, in every period of history have given up the 
discussion, and yet the question remains fresh as ever. Often in the turmoil and struggle of our 
lives we seem to forget it, but suddenly some one dies — one, perhaps, whom we loved, one 
near and dear to our hearts is snatched away from us — and the struggle, the din and turmoil 
of the world around us, cease for a moment, and the soul asks the old questions "What after 
this?" "What becomes of the soul?" 

All human knowledge proceeds out of experience; we cannot know anything except by 
experience. All our reasoning is based upon generalised experience, all our knowledge is but 
harmonised experience. Looking around us, what do we find? A continuous change. The plant 
comes out of the seed, grows into the tree, completes the circle, and comes back to the seed. 
The animal comes, lives a certain time, dies, and completes the circle. So does man. The 
mountains slowly but surely crumble away, the rivers slowly but surely dry up, rains come out of 
the sea, and go back to the sea. Everywhere circles are being completed, birth, growth, 
development, and decay following each other with mathematical precision. This is our everyday 
experience. Inside of it all, behind all this vast mass of what we call life, of millions of forms and 
shapes, millions upon millions of varieties, beginning from the lowest atom to the highest 
spiritualised man, we find existing a certain unity. Every day we find that the wall that was 
thought to be dividing one thing and another is being broken down, and all matter is coming to 
be recognised by modern science as one substance, manifesting in different ways and in 
various forms; the one life that runs through all like a continuous chain, of which all these 
various forms represent the links, link after link, extending almost infinitely, but of the same one 
chain. This is what is called evolution. It is an old, old idea, as old as human society, only it is 
getting fresher and fresher as human knowledge is progressing. There is one thing more, which 
the ancients perceived, but which in modern times is not yet so clearly perceived, and that is 
involution. The seed is becoming the plant; a grain of sand never becomes a plant. It is the 
father that becomes a child; a lump of clay never becomes the child. From what does this 
evolution come, is the question. What was the seed? It was the same as the tree. All the 
possibilities of a future tree are in that seed; all the possibilities of a future man are in the little 
baby; all the possibilities of any future life are in the germ. What is this? The ancient 
philosophers of India called it involution. We find then, that every evolution presupposes an 
involution. Nothing can be evolved which is not already there. Here, again, modern science 
comes to our help. You know by mathematical reasoning that the sum total of the energy that is 
displayed in the universe is the same throughout. You cannot take away one atom of matter or 



one foot-pound of force. You cannot add to the universe one atom of matter or one foot-pound 
of force. As such, evolution does not come out of zero; then, where does it come from? From 
previous involution. The child is the man involved, and the man is the child evolved. The seed is 
the tree involved, and the tree is the seed evolved. All the possibilities of life are in the germ. 
The problem becomes a little clearer. Add to it the first idea of continuation of life. From the 
lowest protoplasm to the most perfect human being there is really but one life. Just as in one life 
we have so many various phases of expression, the protoplasm developing into the baby, the 
child, the young man, the old man, so, from that protoplasm up to the most perfect man we get 
one continuous life, one chain. This is evolution, but we have seen that each evolution 
presupposes an involution. The whole of this life which slowly manifests itself evolves itself from 
the protoplasm to the perfected human being — the Incarnation of God on earth — the whole of 
this series is but one life, and the whole of this manifestation must have been involved in that 
very protoplasm. This whole life, this very God on earth, was involved in it and slowly came out, 
manifesting itself slowly, slowly, slowly. The highest expression must have been there in the 
germ state in minute form; therefore this one force, this whole chain, is the involution of that 
cosmic life which is everywhere. It is this one mass of intelligence which, from the protoplasm 
up to the most perfected man, is slowly and slowly uncoiling itself. Not that it grows. Take off all 
ideas of growth from your mind. With the idea of growth is associated something coming from 
outside, something extraneous, which would give the lie to the truth that the Infinite which lies 
latent in every life is independent of all external conditions. It can never grow; It was always 
there, and only manifests Itself. 

The effect is the cause manifested. There is no essential difference between the effect and 
the cause. Take this glass, for instance. There was the material, and the material plus the will 
of the manufacturer made the glass and these two were its causes and are present in it. In 
what form is the will present? As adhesion. If the force were not here, each particle would fall 
away. What is the effect then? It is the same as the cause, only taking; different form, a different 
composition. When the cause is changed and limited for a time, it becomes the effect We must 
remember this. Applying it to our idea of life the whole of the manifestation of this one series, 
from the protoplasm up to the most perfect man, must be the very same thing as cosmic life. 
First it got involved and became finer; and out of that fine something, which wet the cause, it 
has gone on evolving, manifesting itself, and becoming grosser. 

But the question of immortality is not yet settled. We have seen that everything in this 
universe is indestructible. There is nothing new; there will be nothing new. The same series of 
manifestations are presenting themselves alternately like a wheel, coming up and going down. 
All motion in this universe is in the form of waves, successively rising and falling. Systems after 
systems are coming out of fine forms, evolving themselves, and taking grosser forms, again 
melting down, as it were, and going back to the fine forms. Again they rise out of that, evolving 
for a certain period and slowly going back to the cause. So with all life. Each manifestation of 
life is coming up and then going back again. What goes down? The form. The form breaks to 
pieces, but it comes up again. In one sense bodies and forms even are eternal. How? Suppose 
we take a number of dice and throw them, and they fall in this ratio — 6 — 5 — 3 — 4. We take 
the dice up and throw them again and again; there must be a time when the same numbers will 
come again; the same combination must come. Now each particle, each atom, that is in this 
universe, I take for such a die, and these are being thrown out and combined again and again. 
All these forms before you are one combination. Here are the forms of a glass, a table, a pitcher 
of water, and so forth. This is one combination; in time, it will all break. But there must come a 
time when exactly the same combination comes again, when you will be here, and this form will 
be here, this subject will be talked, and this pitcher will be here. An infinite number of times this 
has been, and an infinite number of times this will be repeated. Thus far with the physical forms. 



What do we find? That even the combination of physical forms is eternally repeated. 

A most interesting conclusion that follows from this theory is the explanation of facts such 
as these: Some of you, perhaps, have seen a man who can read the past life of others and 
foretell the future. How is it possible for any one to see what the future will be, unless there is a 
regulated future? Effects of the past will recur in the future, and we see that it is so. You have 
seen the big Ferris Wheel in Chicago. The wheel revolves, and the little rooms in the wheel are 
regularly coming one after another; one set of persons gets into these, and after they have gone 
round the circle, they get out, and a fresh batch of people gets in. Each one of these batches is 
like one of these manifestations, from the lowest animals to the highest man. Nature is like the 
chain of the Ferris Wheel, endless and infinite, and these little carriages are the bodies or forms 
in which fresh batches of souls are riding, going up higher and higher until they become perfect 
and come out of the wheel. But the wheel goes on. And so long as the bodies are in the wheel, 
it can be absolutely and mathematically foretold where they will go, but not so of the souls. Thus 
it is possible to read the past and the future of nature with precision. We see, then, that there is 
recurrence of the same material phenomena at certain periods, and that the same combinations 
have been taking place through eternity. But that is not the immortality of the soul. No force 
can die, no matter can be annihilated. What becomes of it? It goes on changing, backwards 
and forwards, until it returns to the source from which it came. There is no motion in a straight 
line. Everything moves in a circle; a straight line, infinitely produced, becomes a circle. If that 
is the case, there cannot be eternal degeneration for any soul. It cannot be. Everything must 
complete the circle, and come back to its source. What are you and I and all these souls? In our 
discussion of evolution and involution, we have seen that you and I must be part of the cosmic 
consciousness, cosmic life, cosmic mind, which got involved and we must complete the circle 
and go back to this cosmic intelligence which is God. This cosmic intelligence is what people 
call Lord, or God, or Christ, or Buddha, or Brahman, what the materialists perceive as force, and 
the agnostics as that infinite, inexpressible beyond; and we are all parts of that. 

This is the second idea, yet this is not sufficient; there will be still more doubts. It is very good to 
say that there is no destruction for any force. But all the forces and forms that we see are 
combinations. This form before us is a composition of several component parts, and so every 
force that we see is similarly composite. If you take the scientific idea of force, and call it the 
sum total, the resultant of several forces, what becomes of your individuality? Everything that is 
a compound must sooner or later go back to its component parts. Whatever in this universe is 
the result of the combination of matter or force must sooner or later go back to its components. 
Whatever is the result of certain causes must die, must be destroyed. It gets broken up, 
dispersed, and resolved back into its components. Soul is not a force; neither is it thought. It is 
the manufacturer of thought, but not thought itself; it is the manufacturer of the body, but not the 
body. Why so? We see that the body cannot be the soul. Why not? Because it is not intelligent. 
A corpse is not intelligent, nor a piece of meat in a butcher's shop. What do we mean by 
intelligence? Reactive power. We want to go a little more deeply into this. Here is a pitcher; I 
see it. How? Rays of light from the pitcher enter my eyes, and make a picture in my retina, 
which is carried to the brain. Yet there is no vision. What the physiologists call the sensory 
nerves carry this impression inwards. But up to this there is no reaction. The nerve centre in the 
brain carries the impression to the mind, and the mind reacts, and as soon as this reaction 
comes, the pitcher flashes before it. Take a more commonplace example. Suppose you are 
listening to me intently and a mosquito is sitting on the tip of your nose and giving you that 
pleasant sensation which mosquitoes can give; but you are so intent on hearing me that you do 
not feel the mosquito at all. What has happened? The mosquito has bitten a certain part of your 
skin, and certain nerves are there. They have carried a certain sensation to the brain, and the 
impression is there, but the mind, being otherwise occupied, does not react, so you are not 



aware of the presence of the mosquito. When a new impression comes, if the mind does not 
react, we shall not be conscious of it, but when the reaction comes we feel, we see, we hear, 
and so forth. With this reaction comes illumination, as the Samkhya philosophers call it. We see 
that the body cannot illuminate, because in the absence of attention no sensation is possible. 
Cases have been known where, under peculiar conditions, a man who had never learnt a 
particular language was found able to speak it. Subsequent inquiries proved that the man had, 
when a child, lived among people who spoke that language and the impressions were left in his 
brain. These impressions remained stored up there, until through some cause the mind reacted, 
and illumination came, and then the man was able to speak the language. This shows that the 
mind alone is not sufficient, that the mind itself is an instrument in the hands of someone. In the 
case of that boy the mind contained that language, yet he did not know it, but later there came a 
time when he did. It shows that there is someone besides the mind; and when the boy was a 
baby, that someone did not use the power; but when the boy grew up, he took advantage of it, 
and used it. First, here is the body, second the mind, or instrument of thought, and third behind 
this mind is the Self of man. The Sanskrit word is Atman. As modern philosophers have 
identified thought with molecular changes in the brain, they do not know how to explain such a 
case, and they generally deny it. The mind is intimately connected with the brain which dies 
every time the body changes. The Self is the illuminator, and the mind is the instrument in Its 
hands, and through that instrument It gets hold of the external instrument, and thus comes 
perception. The external instruments get hold of the impressions and carry them to the organs, 
for you must remember always, that the eyes and ears are only receivers — it is the internal 
organs, the brain centres, which act. In Sanskrit these centres are called Indriyas, and they 
carry sensations to the mind, and the mind presents them further back to another state of the 
mind, which in Sanskrit is called Chitta, and there they are organised into will, and all these 
present them to the King of kings inside, the Ruler on His throne, the Self of man. He then sees 
and gives His orders. Then the mind immediately acts on the organs, and the organs on the 
external body. The real Perceiver, the real Ruler, the Governor, the Creator, the Manipulator of 
all this, is the Self of man. 

We see, then, that the Self of man is not the body, neither is It thought. It cannot be a 
compound. Why not? Because everything that is a compound can be seen or imagined. That 
which we cannot imagine or perceive, which we cannot bind together, is not force or matter, 
cause or effect, and cannot be a compound. The domain of compounds is only so far as our 
mental universe, our thought universe extends. Beyond this it does not hold good; it is as 
far as law reigns, and if there is anything beyond law, it cannot be a compound at all. The 
Self of man being beyond the law of causation, is not a compound. It is ever free and is the 
Ruler of everything that is within law. It will never die, because death means going back to the 
component parts, and that which was never a compound can never die. It is sheer nonsense to 
say It dies. 

We are now treading on finer and finer ground, and some of you, perhaps, will be frightened. 
We have seen that this Self, being beyond the little universe of matter and force and thought, is 
a simple; and as a simple It cannot die. That which does not die cannot live. For life and death 
are the obverse and reverse of the same coin. Life is another name for death, and death for life. 
One particular mode of manifestation is what we call life; another particular mode of 
manifestation of the same thing is what we call death. When the wave rises on the top it is life; 
and when it falls into the hollow it is death. If anything is beyond death, we naturally see it must 
also be beyond life. I must remind you of the first conclusion that the soul of man is part of the 
cosmic energy that exists, which is God. We now find that it is beyond life and death. You were 
never born, and you will never die. What is this birth and death that we see around us? This 
belongs to the body only, because the soul is omnipresent. "How can that be?" you may 



ask. "So many people are sitting here, and you say the soul is omnipresent?" What is there, I 
ask, to limit anything that is beyond law, beyond causation? This glass is limited; it is not 
omnipresent, because the surrounding matter forces it to take that form, does not allow it to 
expand. It is conditioned be everything around it, and is, therefore, limited. But that which is 
beyond law, where there is nothing to act upon it, how can that be limited? It must be 
omnipresent. You are everywhere in the universe. How is it then that I am born and I am going 
to die, and all that? That is the talk of ignorance, hallucination of the brain. You were neither 
born, nor will you die. You have had neither birth, nor will have rebirth, nor life, nor incarnation, 
nor anything. What do you mean by coming and going? All shallow nonsense. You are 
everywhere. Then what is this coming and going? It is the hallucination produced by the change 
of this fine body which you call the mind. That is going on. Just a little speck of cloud passing 
before the sky. As it moves on and on, it may create the delusion that the sky moves. 
Sometimes you see a cloud moving before the moon, and you think that the moon is moving. 
When you are in a train you think the land is flying, or when you are in a boat, you think the 
water moves. In reality you are neither going nor coming, you are not being born, nor going to 
be reborn; you are infinite, ever-present, beyond all causation, and ever-free. Such a question is 
out of place, it is arrant nonsense. How could there be mortality when there was no birth? 

One step more we will have to take to come to a logical conclusion. There is no half-way house. 
You are metaphysicians, and there is no crying quarter. If then we are beyond all law, we must 
be omniscient, ever-blessed; all knowledge must be in us and all power and blessedness. 
Certainly. You are the omniscient. Omnipresent being of the universe. But of such beings can 
there be many? Can there be a hundred thousand millions of omnipresent beings? Certainly 
not. Then, what becomes of us all? You are only one; there is only one such Self, and that 
One Self is you. Standing behind this little nature is what we call the Soul. There is only 
One Being, One Existence, the ever-blessed, the omnipresent, the omniscient, the birthless, 
deathless. "Through His control the sky expands, through His control the air breathes, through 
His control the sun shines, and through His control all live. He is the Reality in nature, He is the 
Soul of your soul, nay, more, you are He, you are one with Him." Wherever there are two, there 
is fear, there is danger, there is conflict, there is strife. When it is all One, who is there to hate, 
who is there to struggle with? When it is all He, with whom can you fight? This explains the true 
nature of life; this explains the true nature of being. This is perfection, and this is God. As long 
as you see the many, you are under delusion. "In this world of many he who sees the One, in 
this ever changing world he who sees Him who never changes, as the Soul of his own soul, as 
his own Self, he is free, he is blessed, he has reached the goal." Therefore know that thou art 
He; thou art the God of this universe, "Tat Tvam Asi" (That thou art). All these various ideas that 
I am a man or a woman, or sick or healthy, or strong or weak, or that I hate or I love, or have a 
little power, are but hallucinations. Away with them I What makes you weak? What makes you 
fear? You are the One Being in the universe. What frightens you? Stand up then and be free. 
Know that every thought and word that weakens you in this world is the only evil that exists. 
Whatever makes men weak and fear is the only evil that should be shunned. What can frighten 
you? If the suns come down, and the moons crumble into dust, and systems after systems are 
hurled into annihilation, what is that to you? Stand as a rock; you are indestructible. You are 
the Self, the God of the universe. Say — "I am Existence Absolute, Bliss Absolute, Knowledge 
Absolute, I am He," and like a lion breaking its cage, break your chain and be free for ever. 
What frightens you, what holds you down? Only ignorance and delusion; nothing else can bind 
you. You are the Pure One, the Ever-blessed. 

Silly fools tell you that you are sinners, and you sit down in a corner and weep. It is foolishness, 
wickedness, downright rascality to say that you are sinners! You are all God. See you not God 
and call Him man? Therefore, if you dare, stand on that — mould your whole life on that. If a 



man cuts your throat, do not say no, for you are cutting your own throat. When you help a poor 
man, do not feel the least pride. That is worship for you, and not the cause of pride. Is not the 
whole universe you? Where is there any one that is not you? You are the Soul of this universe. 
You are the sun, moon, and stars, it is you that are shining everywhere. The whole universe 
is you. Whom are you going to hate or to fight? Know, then, that thou art He, and model your 
whole life accordingly; and he who knows this and models his life accordingly will no more 
grovel in darkness. 



CHAPTER XIV 
THE ATM AN 

(Delivered in America) 

Many of you have read Max Muller's celebrated book, Three Lectures on the Vedanta 
Philosophy, and some of you may, perhaps, have read, in German, Professor Deussen's book 
on the same philosophy. In what is being written and taught in the West about the religious 
thought of India, one school of Indian thought is principally represented, that which is called 
Advaitism, the monistic side of Indian religion; and sometimes it is thought that all the teachings 
of the Vedas are comprised in that one system of philosophy. There are, however, various 
phases of Indian thought; and, perhaps, this non-dualistic form is in the minority as compared 
with the other phases. From the most ancient times there have been various sects of thought 
in India, and as there never was a formulated or recognised church or any body of men to 
designate the doctrines which should be believed by each school, people were very free to 
choose their own form, make their own philosophy and establish their own sects. We, therefore, 
find that from the most ancient times India was full of religious sects. At the present time, I do 
not know how many hundreds of sects we have in India, and several fresh ones are coming into 
existence every year. It seems that the religious activity of that nation is simply inexhaustible. 

Of these various sects, in the first place, there can be made two main divisions, the orthodox 
and the unorthodox. Those that believe in the Hindu scriptures, the Vedas, as eternal 
revelations of truth, are called orthodox, and those that stand on other authorities, rejecting 
the Vedas, are the heterodox in India. The chief modern unorthodox Hindu sects are the Jains 
and the Buddhists. Among the orthodox some declare that the scriptures are of much higher 
authority than reason; others again say that only that portion of the scriptures which is rational 
should be taken and the rest rejected. 

Of the three orthodox divisions, the Sankhyas, the Naiyayikas, and the Mimamsakas, the former 
two, although they existed as philosophical schools, failed to form any sect. The one sect that 
now really covers India is that of the later Mimamsakas or the Vedantists. Their philosophy is 
called Vedantism. All the schools of Hindu philosophy start from the Vedanta or Upanishads, 
but the monists took the name to themselves as a speciality, because they wanted to base the 
whole of their theology and philosophy upon the Vedanta and nothing else. In the course of time 
the Vedanta prevailed, and all the various sects of India that now exist can be referred to one or 
other of its schools. Yet these schools are not unanimous in their opinions. 

We find that there are three principal variations among the Vedantists. On one point they all 
agree, and that is that they all believe in God. All these Vedantists also believe the Vedas to 
be the revealed word of God, not exactly in the same sense, perhaps, as the Christians or 
the Mohammedans believe, but in a very peculiar sense. Their idea is that the Vedas are an 
expression of the knowledge of God, and as God is eternal, His knowledge is eternally with 
Him, and so are the Vedas eternal. There is another common ground of belief: that of creation 
in cycles, that the whole of creation appears and disappears; that it is projected and becomes 
grosser and grosser, and at the end of an incalculable period of time it becomes finer and finer, 
when it dissolves and subsides, and then comes a period of rest. Again it: begins to appear 



and goes through the same process. They postulate the existence of a material which they call 
Akasha, which is something like the ether of the scientists, and a power which they call Prana. 
About; this Prana they declare that by its vibration the universe is produced. When a cycle ends, 
all this manifestation of nature becomes finer and finer and dissolves into that Akasha which 
cannot be seen or felt, yet out of which everything is manufactured. All the forces that we see in 
nature, such as gravitation, attraction, and repulsion, or as thought, feeling, and nervous motion 
— all these various forces resolve into that Prana, and the vibration of the Prana ceases. In 
that state it remains until the beginning of the next cycle. Prana then begins to vibrate, and that 
vibration acts upon the Akasha, and all these forms are thrown out in regular succession. 

The first school I will tell you about is styled the dualistic school. The dualists believe that God, 
who is the creator of the universe and its ruler, is eternally separate from nature, eternally 
separate from the human soul. God is eternal; nature is eternal; so are all souls. Nature and the 
souls become manifested and change, but God remains the same. According to the dualists, 
again, this God is personal in that He has qualities, not that He has a body. He has human 
attributes; He is merciful, He is just, He is powerful, He is almighty, He can be approached, 
He can be prayed to, He can be loved, He loves in return, and so forth. In one word, He is 
a human God, only infinitely greater than man; He has none of the evil qualities which men 
have. "He is the repository of an infinite number of blessed qualities" — that is their definition. 
He cannot create without materials, and nature is the material out of which He creates the whole 
universe. There are some non-Vedantic dualists, called "Atomists", who believe that nature is 
nothing but an infinite number of atoms, and God's will, acting upon these atoms, creates. The 
Vedantists deny the atomic theory; they say it is perfectly illogical. The indivisible atoms are 
like geometrical points without parts or magnitude; but something without parts or magnitude, if 
multiplied an infinite number of times, will remain the same. Anything that has no parts will never 
make something that has parts; any number of zeros added together will not make one single 
whole number. So, if these atoms are such that they have no parts or magnitude, the creation 
of the universe is simply impossible out of such atoms. Therefore, according to the Vedantic 
dualists, there is what they call indiscrete or undifferentiated nature, and out of that God creates 
the universe. The vast mass of Indian people are dualists. Human nature ordinarily cannot 
conceive of anything higher. We find that ninety per cent of the population of the earth who 
believe in any religion are dualists. All the religions of Europe and Western Asia are dualistic; 
they have to be. The ordinary man cannot think of anything which is not concrete. He naturally 
likes to cling to that which his intellect can grasp. That is to say, he can only conceive of higher 
spiritual ideas by bringing them down to his own level. He can only grasp abstract thoughts by 
making them concrete. This is the religion of the masses all over the world. They believe in a 
God who is entirely separate from them, a great king, a high, mighty monarch, as it were. At the 
same time they make Him purer than the monarchs of the earth; they give Him all good qualities 
and remove the evil qualities from Him. As if it were ever possible for good to exist without evil; 
as if there could be any conception of light without a conception of darkness! 

With all dualistic theories the first difficulty is, how is it possible that under the rule of a just and 
merciful God, the repository of an infinite number of good qualities, there can be so many evils 
in this world? This question arose in all dualistic religions, but the Hindus never invented a 
Satan as an answer to it. The Hindus with one accord laid the blame on man, and it was easy 
for them to do so. Why? Because, as I have just now told you, they did not believe that souls 
were created out of nothing We see in this life that we can shape and form our future every one 
of us, every day, is trying to shape the morrow; today we fix the fate of the morrow; tomorrow 
we shall fix the fate of the day after, and so on. It is quite logical that this reasoning can be 
pushed backward too. If by our own deeds we shape our destiny in the future why not apply the 
same rule to the past? If, in an infinite chain, a certain number of links are alternately repeated 



then, if one of these groups of links be explained, we can explain the whole chain. So, in this 
infinite length of time, if we can cut off one portion and explain that portion and understand it, 
then, if it be true that nature is uniform, the same explanation must apply to the whole chain of 
time. If it be true that we are working out our own destiny here within this short space of time 
if it be true that everything must have a cause as we see it now, it must also be true that that 
which we are now is the effect of the whole of our past; therefore, no other person is necessary 
to shape the destiny of mankind but man himself. The evils that are in the world are caused 
by none else but ourselves. We have caused all this evil; and just as we constantly see misery 
resulting from evil actions, so can we also see that much of the existing misery in the world 
is the effect of the past wickedness of man. Man alone, therefore, according to this theory, is 
responsible. God is not to blame. He, the eternally merciful Father, is not to blame at all. "We 
reap what we sow." 

Another peculiar doctrine of the dualists is, that every soul must eventually come to salvation. 
No one will be left out. Through various vicissitudes, through various sufferings and enjoyments, 
each one of them will come out in the end. Come out of what? The one common idea of all 
Hindu sects is that all souls have to get out of this universe. Neither the universe which we see 
and feel, nor even an imaginary one, can be right, the real one, because both are mixed up with 
good and evil. According to the dualists, there is beyond this universe a place full of happiness 
and good only; and when that place is reached, there will be no more necessity of being born 
and reborn, of living and dying; and this idea is very dear to them. No more disease there, and 
no more death. There will be eternal happiness, and they will be in the presence of God for all 
time and enjoy Him for ever. They believe that all beings, from the lowest worm up to the 
highest angels and gods, will all, sooner or later, attain to that world where there will be no more 
misery. But our world will never end; it goes on infinitely, although moving in waves. Although 
moving in cycles it never ends. The number of souls that are to be saved, that are to be 
perfected, is infinite. Some are in plants, some are in the lower animals, some are in men, some 
are in gods, but all of them, even the highest gods, are imperfect, are in bondage. What is the 
bondage? The necessity of being born and the necessity of dying. Even the highest gods die. 
What are these gods? They mean certain states, certain offices. For instance, Indra the king of 
gods, means a certain office; some soul which was very high has gone to fill that post in this 
cycle, and after this cycle he will be born again as man and come down to this earth, and the 
man who is very good in this cycle will go and fill that post in the next cycle. So with all these 
gods; they are certain offices which have been filled alternately by millions and millions of souls, 
who, after filling those offices, came down and became men. Those who do good works in this 
world and help others, but with an eye to reward, hoping to reach heaven or to get the praise of 
their fellow-men, must when they die, reap the benefit of those good works — they become 
these gods. But that is not salvation; salvation never will come through hope of reward. 
Whatever man desires the Lord gives him. Men desire power, they desire prestige, they desire 
enjoyments as gods, and they get these desires fulfilled, but no effect of work can be eternal. 
The effect will be exhausted after a certain length of time; it may be aeons, but after that it will 
be gone, and these gods must come down again and become men and get another chance for 
liberation. The lower animals will come up and become men, become gods, perhaps, then 
become men again, or go back to animals, until the time when they will get rid of all desire for 
enjoyment, the thirst for life, this clinging on to the "me and mine". This "me and mine" is the 
very root of all the evil in the world. If you ask a dualist, "Is your child yours?" he will say, "It is 
God's. My property is not mine, it is God's." Everything should be held as God's. 

Now, these dualistic sects in India are great vegetarians, great preachers of non-killing of 
animals. But their idea about it is quite different from that of the Buddhist. If you ask a 
Buddhist, "Why do you preach against killing any animal?" he will answer, "We have no right to 



take any life;" and if you ask a dualist, "Why do you not kill any animal?" he says, "Because it is 
the Lord's." So the dualist says that this "me and mine" is to be applied to God and God alone; 
He is the only "me" and everything is His. When a man has come to the state when he has 
no "me and mine," when everything is given up to the Lord, when he loves everybody and is 
ready even to give up his life for an animal, without any desire for reward, then his heart will be 
purified, and when the heart has been purified, into that heart will come the love of God. God is 
the centre of attraction for every soul, and the dualist says, "A needle covered up with clay will 
not be attracted by a magnet, but as soon as the clay is washed off, it will be attracted." God is 
the magnet and human soul is the needle, and its evil works, the dirt and dust that cover it. As 
soon as the soul is pure it will by natural attraction come to God and remain with Him for ever, 
but remain eternally separate. The perfected soul, if it wishes, can take any form; it is able to 
take a hundred bodies, if it wishes or have none at all, if it so desires. It becomes almost 
almighty, except that it cannot create; that power belongs to God alone. None, however perfect, 
can manage the affairs of the universe; that function belongs to God. But all souls, when they 
become perfect, become happy for ever and live eternally with God. This is the dualistic 
statement. 

One other idea the dualists preach. They protest against the idea of praying to God, "Lord, give 
me this and give me that." They think that should not be done. If a man must ask some material 
gift, he should ask inferior beings for it; ask one of these gods, or angels or a perfected being 
for temporal things. God is only to be loved. It is almost a blasphemy to pray to God, "Lord, give 
me this, and give me that." According to the dualists, therefore, what a man wants, he will get 
sooner or later, by praying to one of the gods; but if he wants salvation, he must worship God. 
This is the religion of the masses of India. 

The real Vedanta philosophy begins with those known as the qualified non-dualists. They 
make the statement that the effect is never different from the cause; the effect is but the cause 
reproduced in another form. If the universe is the effect and God the cause, it must be God 
Himself — it cannot be anything but that. They start with the assertion that God is both the 
efficient and the material cause of the universe; that He Himself is the creator, and He Himself is 
the material out of which the whole of nature is projected. The word "creation" in your language 
has no equivalent in Sanskrit, because there is no sect in India which believes in creation, as 
it is regarded in the West, as something coming out of nothing. It seems that at one time there 
were a few that had some such idea, but they were very quickly silenced. At the present time 
I do not know of any sect that believes this. What we mean by creation is projection of that 
which already existed. Now, the whole universe, according to this sect, is God Himself. He is the 
material of the universe. We read in the Vedas, "As the Urnanabhi (spider) spins the thread out 
of its own body, . . . even so the whole universe has come out of the Being." 

If the effect is the cause reproduced, the question is: "How is it that we find this material, dull, 
unintelligent universe produced from a God, who is not material, but who is eternal intelligence? 
How, if the cause is pure and perfect, can the effect be quite different?" What do these qualified 
non-dualists say? Theirs is a very peculiar theory. They say that these three existences, God, 
nature, and the soul, are one. God is, as it were, the Soul, and nature and souls are the body of 
God. Just as I have a body and I have a soul, so the whole universe and all souls are the body 
of God, and God is the Soul of souls. Thus, God is the material cause of the universe. The body 
may be changed — may be young or old, strong or weak — but that does not affect the soul 
at all. It is the same eternal existence, manifesting through the body. Bodies come and go, but 
the soul does not change. Even so the whole universe is the body of God, and in that sense 
it is God. But the change in the universe does not affect God. Out of this material He creates 
the universe, and at the end of a cycle His body becomes finer, it contracts; at the beginning of 



another cycle it becomes expanded again, and out of it evolve all these different worlds. 

Now both the dualists and the qualified non-dualists admit that the soul is by its nature pure, 
but through its own deeds it becomes impure. The qualified non-dualists express it more 
beautifully than the dualists, by saving that the soul's purity and perfection become contracted 
and again become manifest, and what we are now trying to do is to remanifest the intelligence, 
the purity, the power which is natural to the soul. Souls have a multitude of qualities, but not 
that of almightiness or all-knowingness. Every wicked deed contracts the nature of the soul, and 
every good deed expands it, and these souls, are all parts of God. "As from a blazing fire fly 
millions of sparks of the same nature, even so from this Infinite Being, God, these souls have 
come." Each has the same goal. The God of the qualified non-dualists is also a Personal God, 
the repository of an infinite number of blessed qualities, only He is interpenetrating everything 
in the universe. He is immanent in everything and everywhere; and when the scriptures say that 
God is everything, it means that God is interpenetrating everything, not that God has become 
the wall, but that God is in the wall. There is not a particle, not an atom in the universe where He 
is not. Souls are all limited; they are not omnipresent. When they get expansion of their powers 
and become perfect, there is no more birth and death for them; they live with God for ever. 

Now we come to Advaitism, the last and, what we think, the fairest flower of philosophy and 
religion that any country in any age has produced, where human thought attains its highest 
expression and even goes beyond the mystery which seems to be impenetrable. This is the 
non-dualistic Vedantism. It is too abstruse, too elevated to be the religion of the masses. Even 
in India, its birthplace, where it has been ruling supreme for the last three thousand years, it 
has not been able to permeate the masses. As we go on we shall find that it is difficult for even 
the most thoughtful man and woman in any country to understand Advaitism. We have made 
ourselves so weak; we have made ourselves so low. We may make great claims, but naturally 
we want to lean on somebody else. We are like little, weak plants, always wanting a support. 
How many times I have been asked for a "comfortable religion!" Very few men ask for the truth, 
fewer still dare to learn the truth, and fewest of all dare to follow it in all its practical bearings. 
It is not their fault; it is all weakness of the brain. Any new thought, especially of a high kind, 
creates a disturbance, tries to make a new channel, as it were, in the brain matter, and that 
unhinges the system, throws men off their balance. They are used to certain surroundings, 
and have to overcome a huge mass of ancient superstitions, ancestral superstition, class 
superstition, city superstition, country superstition, and behind all, the vast mass of superstition 
that is innate in every human being. Yet there are a few brave souls in the world who dare to 
conceive the truth, who dare to take it up, and who dare to follow it to the end. 

What does the Advaitist declare? He says, if there is a God, that God must be both the material 
and the efficient cause of the universe. Not only is He the creator, but He is also the created. 
He Himself is this universe. How can that be? God, the pure, the spirit, has become the 
universe? Yes; apparently so. That which all ignorant people see as the universe does not 
really exist. What are you and I and all these things we see? Mere self-hypnotism; there is but 
one Existence, the Infinite, the Ever-blessed One. In that Existence we dream all these various 
dreams. It is the Atman, beyond all, the Infinite, beyond the known, beyond the knowable; in and 
through That we see the universe. It is the only Reality. It is this table; It is the audience before 
me; It is the wall; It is everything, minus the name and form. Take away the form of the table, 
take away the name; what remains is It. The Vedantist does not call It either He or She — these 
are fictions, delusions of the human brain — there is no sex in the soul. People who are under 
illusion, who have become like animals, see a woman or a man; living gods do not see men or 
women. How can they who are beyond everything have any sex idea? Everyone and everything 
is the Atman — the Self — the sexless, the pure, the ever-blessed. It is the name, the form, 



the body, which are material, and they make all this difference. If you take away these two 
differences of name and form, the whole universe is one; there are no two, but one everywhere. 
You and I are one. There is neither nature, nor God, nor the universe, only that one Infinite 
Existence, out of which, through name and form, all these are manufactured. How to know the 
Knower? It cannot be known. How can you see your own Self? You can only reflect yourself. 
So all this universe is the reflection of that One Eternal Being, the Atman, and as the reflection 
falls upon good or bad reflectors, so good or bad images are cast up. Thus in the murderer, the 
reflector is bad and not the Self. In the saint the reflector is pure. The Self — the Atman — is 
by Its own nature pure. It is the same, the one Existence of the universe that is reflecting Itself 
from the lowest worm to the highest and most perfect being. The whole of this universe is one 
Unity, one Existence, physically, mentally, morally and spiritually. We are looking upon this one 
Existence in different forms and creating all these images upon It. To the being who has limited 
himself to the condition of man, It appears as the world of man. To the being who is on a higher 
plane of existence, It may seem like heaven. There is but one Soul in the universe, not two. It 
neither comes nor goes. It is neither born, nor dies, nor reincarnates. How can It die? Where 
can It go? All these heavens, all these earths, and all these places are vain imaginations of the 
mind. They do not exist, never existed in the past, and never will exist in the future. 

I am omnipresent, eternal. Where can I go? Where am I not already? I am reading this book 
of nature. Page after page I am finishing and turning over, and one dream of life after another 
goes Away. Another page of life is turned over; another dream of life comes, and it goes away, 
rolling and rolling, and when I have finished my reading, I let it go and stand aside, I throw away 
the book, and the whole thing is finished. What does the Advaitist preach? He dethrones all 
the gods that ever existed, or ever will exist in the universe and places on that throne the Self 
of man, the Atman, higher than the sun and the moon, higher than the heavens, greater than 
this great universe itself. No books, no scriptures, no science can ever imagine the glory of the 
Self that appears as man, the most glorious God that ever was, the only God that ever existed, 
exists, or ever will exist. I am to worship, therefore, none but myself. "I worship my Self," says 
the Advaitist. To whom shall I bow down? I salute my Self. To whom shall I go for help? Who 
can help me, the Infinite Being of the universe? These are foolish dreams, hallucinations; who 
ever helped any one? None. Wherever you see a weak man, a dualist, weeping and wailing for 
help from somewhere above the skies, it is because he does not know that the skies also are 
in him. He wants help from the skies, and the help comes. We see that it comes; but it comes 
from within himself, and he mistakes it as coming from without. Sometimes a sick man lying on 
his bed may hear a tap on the door. He gets up and opens it and finds no one there. He goes 
back to bed, and again he hears a tap. He gets up and opens the door. Nobody is there. At last 
he finds that it was his own heartbeat which he fancied was a knock at the door. Thus man, 
after this vain search after various gods outside himself, completes the circle, and comes back 
to the point from which he started — the human soul, and he finds that the God whom he was 
searching in hill and dale, whom he was seeking in every brook, in every temple, in churches 
and heavens, that God whom he was even imagining as sitting in heaven and ruling the world, 
is his own Self. I am He, and He is I. None but I was God, and this little I never existed. 

Yet, how could that perfect God have been deluded? He never was. How could a perfect God 
have been dreaming? He never dreamed. Truth never dreams. The very question as to whence 
this illusion arose is absurd. Illusion arises from illusion alone. There will be no illusion as soon 
as the truth is seen. Illusion always rests upon illusion; it never rests upon God, the Truth, the 
Atman. You are never in illusion; it is illusion that is in you, before you. A cloud is here; another 
comes and pushes it aside and takes its place. Still another comes and pushes that one away. 
As before the eternal blue sky, clouds of various hue and colour come, remain for a short time 
and disappear, leaving it the same eternal blue, even so are you, eternally pure, eternally 



perfect. You are the veritable Gods of the universe; nay, there are not two — there is but One. It 
is a mistake to say, "you and I"; say "I". It is I who am eating in millions of mouths; how can I be 
hungry? It is I who am working through an infinite number of hands; how can I be inactive? It is I 
who am living the life of the whole universe; where is death for me? I am beyond all life, beyond 
all death. Where shall I seek for freedom? I am free by my nature. Who can bind me — the God 
of this universe? The scriptures of the world are but little maps, wanting to delineate my glory, 
who am the only existence of the universe. Then what are these books to me? Thus says the 
Advaitist. 

"Know the truth and be free in a moment." All the darkness will then vanish. When man has 
seen himself as one with the Infinite Being of the universe, when all separateness has ceased, 
when all men and women, an gods and angels, all animals and plants, and the whole universe 
have melted into that Oneness, then all fear disappears. Can I hurt myself? Can I kill myself? 
Can I injure myself? Whom to fear? Can you fear yourself? Then will all sorrow disappear. 
What can cause me sorrow? I am the One Existence of the universe. Then all jealousies will 
disappear; of whom to be jealous? Of myself? Then all bad feelings disappear. Against whom 
can I have bad feeling? Against myself? There is none in the universe but I. And this is the 
one way, says the Vedantist, to Knowledge. Kill out this differentiation, kill out this superstition 
that there are many. "He who in this world of many sees that One, he who in this mass of 
insentiency sees that one Sentient Being, he who in this world of shadows catches that Reality, 
unto him belongs eternal peace, unto none else, unto none else." 

These are the salient points of the three steps which Indian religious thought has taken in 
regard to God. We have seen that it began with the Personal, the extra-cosmic God. It went 
from the external to the internal cosmic body, God immanent in the universe, and ended 
in identifying the soul itself with that God, and making one Soul, a unit of all these various 
manifestations in the universe. This is the last word of the Vedas. It begins with dualism, 
goes through a qualified monism and ends in perfect monism. We know how very few in this 
world can come to the last, or even dare believe in it, and fewer still dare act according to it. 
Yet we know that therein lies the explanation of all ethics, of all morality and all spirituality in 
the universe. Why is it that every one says, "Do good to others?" Where is the explanation? 
Why is it that all great men have preached the brotherhood of mankind, and greater men the 
brotherhood of all lives? Because whether they were conscious of it or not, behind all that, 
through all their irrational and personal superstitions, was peering forth the eternal light of the 
Self denying all manifoldness, and asserting that the whole universe is but one. 

Again, the last word gave us one universe, which through the senses we see as matter, through 
the intellect as souls, and through the spirit as God. To the man who throws upon himself veils, 
which the world calls wickedness and evil, this very universe will change and become a hideous 
place; to another man, who wants enjoyments, this very universe will change its appearance 
and become a heaven, and to the perfect man the whole thing will vanish and become his own 
Self. 

Now, as society exists at the present time, all these three stages are necessary; the one 
does not deny the other, one is simply the fulfilment of the other. The Advaitist or the qualified 
Advaitist does not say that dualism is wrong; it is a right view, but a lower one. It is on the way 
to truth; therefore let everybody work out his own vision of this universe, according to his own 
ideas. Injure none, deny the position of none; take man where he stands and, if you can, lend 
him a helping hand and put him on a higher platform, but do not injure and do not destroy. All 
will come to truth in the long run. "When all the desires of the heart will be vanquished, then this 
very mortal will become immortal" — then the very man will become God. 



CHAPTER XV 
THE ATMAN: ITS BONDAGE AND FREEDOM 

(Delivered in America) 

According to the Advaita philosophy, there is only one thing real in the universe, which it calls 
Brahman; everything else is unreal, manifested and manufactured out of Brahman by the power 
of Maya. To reach back to that Brahman is our goal. We are, each one of us, that Brahman, 
that Reality, plus this Maya. If we can get rid of this Maya or ignorance, then we become what 
we really are. According to this philosophy, each man consists of three parts — the body, the 
internal organ or the mind, and behind that, what is called the Atman, the Self. The body is the 
external coating and the mind is the internal coating of the Atman who is the real perceiver, the 
real enjoyer, the being in the body who is working the body by means of the internal organ or 
the mind. 

The Atman is the only existence in the human body which is immaterial. Because it is 
immaterial, it cannot be a compound, and because it is not a compound, it does not obey the 
law of cause and effect, and so it is immortal. That which is immortal can have no beginning 
because everything with a beginning must have an end. It also follows that it must be formless; 
there cannot be any fond without matter. Everything that has form must have a beginning 
and an end. We have none of us seen a form which had not a beginning and will not have an 
end. A form comes out of a combination of force and matter. This chair has a peculiar form, 
that is to say a certain quantity of matter is acted upon by a certain amount of force and made 
to assume a particular shape. The shape is the result of a combination of matter and force. 
The combination cannot be eternal; there must come to every combination a time when it will 
dissolve. So all forms have a beginning and an end. We know our body will perish; it had a 
beginning and it will have an end. But the Self having no form, cannot be bound by the law of 
beginning and end. It is existing from infinite time; just as time is eternal, so is the Self of man 
eternal. Secondly, it must be all-pervading. It is only form that is conditioned and limited by 
space; that which is formless cannot be confined in space. So, according to Advaita Vedanta, 
the Self, the Atman, in you, in me, in every one, is omnipresent. You are as much in the sun 
now as in this earth, as much in England as in America. But the Self acts through the mind and 
the body, and where they are, its action is visible. 

Each work we do, each thought we think, produces an impression, called in Sanskrit Samskara, 
upon the mind and the sum total of these impressions becomes the tremendous force which 
is called "character". The character of a man is what he has created for himself; it is the result 
of the mental and physical actions that he has done in his life. The sum total of the Samskaras 
is the force which gives a man the next direction after death. A man dies; the body falls away 
and goes back to the elements; but the Samskaras remain, adhering to the mind which, being 
made of fine material, does not dissolve, because the finer the material, the more persistent 
it is. But the mind also dissolves in the long run, and that is what we are struggling for. In this 
connection, the best illustration that comes to my mind is that of the whirlwind. Different currents 
of air coming from different directions meet and at the meeting-point become united and go on 
rotating; as they rotate, they form a body of dust, drawing in bits of paper, straw, etc., at one 
place, only to drop them and go on to another, and so go on rotating, raising and forming bodies 



out of the materials which are before them. Even so the forces, called Prana in Sanskrit, come 
together and form the body and the mind out of matter, and move on until the body falls down, 
when they raise other materials to make another body, and when this falls, another rises, and 
thus the process goes on. Force cannot travel without matter. So when the body falls down, the 
mind-stuff remains, Prana in the form of Samskaras acting on it; and then it goes on to another 
point, raises up another whirl from fresh materials, and begins another motion; and so it travels 
from place to place until the force is all spent; and then it falls down, ended. So when the mind 
will end, be broken to pieces entirely, without leaving any Samskara, we shall be entirely free, 
and until that time we are in bondage; until then the Atman is covered by the whirl of the mind, 
and imagines it is being taken from place to place. When the whirl falls down, the Atman finds 
that It is all-pervading. It can go where It likes, is entirely free, and is able to manufacture any 
number of minds or bodies It likes; but until then It can go only with the whirl. This freedom is 
the goal towards which we are all moving. 

Suppose there is a ball in this room, and we each have a mallet in our hands and begin to strike 
the ball, giving it hundreds of blows, driving it from point to point, until at last it flies out of the 
room. With what force and in what direction will it go out? These will be determined by the 
forces that have been acting upon it all through the room. All the different blows that have been 
given will have their effects. Each one of our actions, mental and physical, is such a blow. The 
human mind is a ball which is being hit. We are being hit about this room of the world all the 
time, and our passage out of it is determined by the force of all these blows. In each case, the 
speed and direction of the ball is determined by the hits it has received; so all our actions in this 
world will determine our future birth. Our present birth, therefore, is the result of our past. This is 
one case: suppose I give you an endless chain, in which there is a black link and a white link 
alternately, without beginning and without end, and suppose I ask you the nature of the chain. 
At first you will find a difficulty in determining its nature, the chain being infinite at both ends, but 
slowly you find out it is a chain. You soon discover that this infinite chain is a repetition of the 
two links, black and white, and these multiplied infinitely become a whole chain. If you know the 
nature of one of these links, you know the nature of the whole chain, because it is a perfect 
repetition. All our lives, past, present, and future, form, as it were, an infinite chain, without 
beginning and without end, each link of which is one life, with two ends, birth and death. What 
we are and do here is being repeated again and again, with but little variation. So if we know 
these two links, we shall know all the passages we shall have to pass through in this world. We 
see, therefore, that our passage into this world has been exactly determined by our previous 
passages. Similarly we are in this world by our own actions. Just as we go out with the sum total 
of our present actions upon us, so we see that we come into it with the sum total of our past 
actions upon us; that which takes us out is the very same thing that brings us in. What brings us 
in? Our past deeds. What takes us out? Our own deeds here, and so on and on we go. Like the 
caterpillar that takes the thread from its own mouth and builds its cocoon and at last finds itself 
caught inside the cocoon, we have bound ourselves by our own actions, we have thrown the 
network of our actions around ourselves. We have set the law of causation in motion, and we 
find it hard to get ourselves out of it. We have set the wheel in motion, and we are being 
crushed under it. So this philosophy teaches us that we are uniformly being bound by our own 
actions, good or bad. 

The Atman never comes nor goes, is never born nor dies. It is nature moving before the Atman, 
and the reflection of this motion is on the Atman; and the Atman ignorantly thinks it is moving, 
and not nature. When the Atman thinks that, it is in bondage; but when it comes to find it never 
moves, that it is omnipresent, then freedom comes. The Atman in bondage is called Jiva. 
Thus you see that when it is said that the Atman comes and goes, it is said only for facility of 
understanding, just as for convenience in studying astronomy you are asked to suppose that the 



sun moves round the earth, though such is not the case. So the Jiva, the soul, comes to higher 
or lower states. This is the well-known law of reincarnation; and this law binds all creation. 

People in this country think it too horrible that man should come up from an animal. Why? What 
will be the end of these millions of animals? Are they nothing? If we have a soul, so have they, 
and if they have none, neither have we. It is absurd to say that man alone has a soul, and the 
animals none. I have seen men worse than animals. 

The human soul has sojourned in lower and higher forms, migrating from one to another, 
according to the Samskaras or impressions, but it is only in the highest form as man that it 
attains to freedom. The man form is higher than even the angel form, and of all forms it is the 
highest; man is the highest being in creation, because he attains to freedom. 

All this universe was in Brahman, and it was, as it were, projected out of Him, and has been 
moving on to go back to the source from which it was projected, like the electricity which comes 
out of the dynamo, completes the circuit, and returns to it. The same is the case with the soul. 
Projected from Brahman, it passed through all sorts of vegetable and animal forms, and at last it 
is in man, and man is the nearest approach to Brahman. To go back to Brahman from which we 
have been projected is the great struggle of life. Whether people know it or not does not matter. 
In the universe, whatever we see of motion, of struggles in minerals or plants or animals is an 
effort to come back to the centre and be at rest. There was an equilibrium, and that has been 
destroyed; and all parts and atoms and molecules are struggling to find their lost equilibrium 
again. In this struggle they are combining and re-forming, giving rise to all the wonderful 
phenomena of nature. All struggles and competitions in animal life, plant life, and everywhere 
else, all social struggles and wars are but expressions of that eternal struggle to get back to that 
equilibrium. 

The going from birth to death, this travelling, is what is called Samsara in Sanskrit, the round 
of birth and death literally. All creation, passing through this round, will sooner or later become 
free. The question may be raised that if we all shall come to freedom, why should we struggle to 
attain it? If every one is going to be free, we will sit down and wait. It is true that every being will 
become free, sooner or later; no one can be lost. Nothing can come to destruction; everything 
must come up. If that is so, what is the use of our struggling? In the first place, the struggle is 
the only means that will bring us to the centre, and in the second place, we do not know why 
we struggle. We have to. "Of thousands of men some are awakened to the idea that they will 
become free." The vast masses of mankind are content with material things, but there are some 
who awake, and want to get back, who have had enough of this playing, down here. These 
struggle consciously, while the rest do it unconsciously. 

The alpha and omega of Vedanta philosophy is to "give up the world," giving up the unreal and 
taking the real. Those who are enamoured of the world may ask, "Why should we attempt to get 
out of it, to go back to the centre? Suppose we have all come from God, but we find this world 
is pleasurable and nice; then why should we not rather try to get more and more of the world? 
Why should we try to get out of it?" They say, look at the wonderful improvements going on in 
the world every day, how much luxury is being manufactured for it. This is very enjoyable. Why 
should we go away, and strive for something which is not this? The answer is that the world is 
certain to die, to be broken into pieces and that many times we have had the same enjoyments. 
All the forms which we are seeing now have been manifested again and again, and the world 
in which we live has been here many times before. I have been here and talked to you many 
times before. You will know that it must be so, and the very words that you have been listening 
to now, you have heard many times before. And many times more it will be the same. Souls 



were never different, the bodies have been constantly dissolving and recurring. Secondly, these 
things periodically occur. Suppose here are three or four dice, and when we throw them, one 
comes up five, another four, another three, and another two. If you keep on throwing, there must 
come times when those very same numbers will recur. Go on throwing, and no matter how long 
may be the interval, those numbers must come again. It cannot be asserted in how many throws 
they will come again; this is the law of chance. So with souls and their associations. However 
distant may be the periods, the same combinations and dissolutions will happen again and 
again. The same birth, eating and drinking, and then death, come round again and again. Some 
never find anything higher than the enjoyments of the world, but those who want to soar higher 
find that these enjoyments are never final, are only by the way. 

Every form, let us say, beginning from the little worm and ending in man, is like one of the cars 
of the Chicago Ferris Wheel which is in motion all the time, but the occupants change. A man 
goes into a car, moves with the wheel, and comes out. The wheel goes on and on. A soul enters 
one form, resides in it for a time, then leaves it and goes into another and quits that again for a 
third. Thus the round goes on till it comes out of the wheel and becomes free. 

Astonishing powers of reading the past and the future of a man's life have been known in every 
country and every age. The explanation is that so long as the Atman is within the realm of 
causation — though its inherent freedom is not entirely lost and can assert itself, even to the 
extent of taking the soul out of the causal chain, as it does in the case of men who become 
free — its actions are greatly influenced by the causal law and thus make it possible for men, 
possessed with the insight to trace the sequence of effects, to tell the past and the future. 

So long as there is desire or want, it is a sure sign that there is imperfection. A perfect, free 
being cannot have any desire. God cannot want anything. If He desires, He cannot be God. 
He will be imperfect. So all the talk about God desiring this and that, and becoming angry 
and pleased by turns is babies' talk, but means nothing. Therefore it has been taught by all 
teachers, "Desire nothing, give up all desires and be perfectly satisfied." 

A child comes into the world crawling and without teeth, and the old man gets out without teeth 
and crawling. The extremes are alike, but the one has no experience of the life before him, while 
the other has gone through it all. When the vibrations of ether are very low, we do not see light, 
it is darkness; when very high, the result is also darkness. The extremes generally appear to 
be the same, though one is as distant from the other as the poles. The wall has no desires, so 
neither has the perfect man. But the wall is not sentient enough to desire, while for the perfect 
man there is nothing to desire. There are idiots who have no desires in this world, because their 
brain is imperfect. At the same time, the highest state is when we have no desires, but the two 
are opposite poles of the same existence. One is near the animal, and the other near to God. 



CHAPTER XVI 
THE REAL AND THE APPARENT MAN 

(Delivered in New York) 

Here we stand, and our eyes look forward sometimes miles ahead. Man has been doing that 
since he began to think. He is always looking forward, looking ahead. He wants to know where 
he goes even after the dissolution of his body. Various theories have been propounded, system 
after system has been brought forward to suggest explanations. Some have been rejected, 
while others have been accepted, and thus it will go on, so long as man is here, so long as 
man thinks. There is some truth in each of these systems. There is a good deal of what is not 
truth in all of them. I shall try to place before you the sum and substance, the result, of the 
inquiries in this line that have been made in India. I shall try to harmonise the various thoughts 
on the subject, as they have come up from time to time among Indian philosophers. I shall try to 
harmonise the psychologists and the metaphysicians, and, if possible, I shall harmonise them 
with modern scientific thinkers also. 

The one theme of the Vedanta philosophy is the search after unity. The Hindu mind does not 
care for the particular; it is always after the general, nay, the universal. "What is that, by knowing 
which everything else is to be known?" That is the one theme. "As through the knowledge 
of one lump of clay all that is of clay is known, so, what is that, by knowing which this whole 
universe itself will be known?" That is the one search. The whole of this universe, according to 
the Hindu philosophers, can be resolved into one material, which they call Akasha. Everything 
that we see around us, feel, touch, taste, is simply a differentiated manifestation of this Akasha. 
It is all-pervading, fine. All that we call solids, liquids, or gases, figures, forms, or bodies, the 
earth, sun, moon, and stars — everything is composed of this Akasha. 

What force is it which acts upon this Akasha and manufactures this universe out of it? Along 
with Akasha exists universal power; all that is power in the universe, manifesting as force or 
attraction — nay, even as thought — is but a different manifestation of that one power which 
the Hindus call Prana. This Prana, acting on Akasha, is creating the whole of this universe. In 
the beginning of a cycle, this Prana, as it were, sleeps in the infinite ocean of Akasha. It existed 
motionless in the beginning. Then arises motion in this ocean of Akasha by the action of this 
Prana, and as this Prana begins to move, to vibrate, out of this ocean come the various celestial 
systems, suns, moons, stars, earth, human beings, animals, plants, and the manifestations of 
all the various forces and phenomena. Every manifestation of power, therefore, according to 
them, is this Prana. Every material manifestation is Akasha. When this cycle will end, all that 
we call solid will melt away into the next form, the next finer or the liquid form; that will melt into 
the gaseous, and that into finer and more uniform heat vibrations, and all will melt back into the 
original Akasha, and what we now call attraction, repulsion, and motion, will slowly resolve into 
the original Prana. Then this Prana is said to sleep for a period, again to emerge and to throw 
out all those forms; and when this period will end, the whole thing will subside again. Thus this 
process of creation is going down, and coming up, oscillating backwards and forwards. In the 
language of modern science, it is becoming static during one period, and during another period 
it is becoming dynamic. At one time it becomes potential, and at the next period it becomes 



active. This alteration has gone on through eternity. 

Yet, this analysis is only partial. This much has been known even to modern physical science. 
Beyond that, the research of physical science cannot reach. But the inquiry does not stop in 
consequence. We have not yet found that one, by knowing which everything else will be known. 
We have resolved the whole universe into two components, into what are called matter and 
energy, or what the ancient philosophers of India called Akasha and Prana. The next step is 
to resolve this Akasha and the Prana into their origin. Both can be resolved into the still higher 
entity which is called mind. It is out of mind, the Mahat, the universally existing thought-power, 
that these two have been produced. Thought is a still finer manifestation of being than either 
Akasha or Prana. It is thought that splits itself into these two. The universal thought existed in 
the beginning, and that manifested, changed, evolved itself into these two Akasha and Prana: 
and by the combination of these two the whole universe has been produced. 

We next come to psychology. I am looking at you. The external sensations are brought to me by 
the eyes; they are carried by the sensory nerves to the brain. The eyes are not the organs of 
vision. They are but the external instruments, because if the real organ behind, that which 
carries the sensation to the brain, is destroyed, I may have twenty eyes, yet I cannot see you. 
The picture on the retina may be as complete as possible, yet I shall not see you. Therefore, the 
organ is different from its instruments; behind the instruments, the eyes, there must be the 
organ So it is with all the sensations. The nose is not the sense of smell; it is but the instrument, 
and behind it is the organ. With every sense we have, there is first the external instrument in the 
physical body; behind that in the same physical body, there is the organ; yet these are not 
sufficient. Suppose I am talking to you, and you are listening to me with close attention. 
Something happens, say, a bell rings; you will not, perhaps, hear the bell ring. The pulsations of 
that sound came to your ear, struck the tympanum, the impression was carried by the nerve into 
the brain; if the whole process was complete up to carrying the impulse to the brain, why did 
you not hear? Something else was wanting — the mind was not attached to the organ. When 
the mind detaches itself from the organ, the organ may bring any news to it, but the mind will 
not receive it. When it attaches itself to the organ, then alone is it possible for the mind to 
receive the news. Yet, even that does not complete the whole. The instruments may bring the 
sensation from outside, the organs may carry it inside, the mind may attach itself to the organ, 
and yet the perception may not be complete. One more factor is necessary; there must be a 
reaction within. With this reaction comes knowledge. That which is outside sends, as it were, 
the current of news into my brain. My mind takes it up, and presents it to the intellect, which 
groups it in relation to pre-received impressions and sends a current of reaction, and with that 
reaction comes perception. Here, then, is the will. The state of mind which reacts is called 
Buddhi, the intellect. Yet, even this does not complete the whole. One step more is required. 
Suppose here is a camera and there is a sheet of cloth, and I try to throw a picture on that 
sheet. What am I to do? I am to guide various rays of light through the camera to fall upon the 
sheet and become grouped there. Something is necessary to have the picture thrown upon, 
which does not move. I cannot form a picture upon something which is moving; that something 
must be stationary, because the rays of light which I throw on it are moving, and these moving 
rays of light, must be gathered, unified, co-ordinated, and completed upon something which is 
stationary. Similar is the case with the sensations which these organs of ours are carrying inside 
and presenting to the mind, and which the mind in its turn is presenting to the intellect. This 
process will not be complete unless there is something permanent in the background upon 
which the picture, as it were, may be formed, upon which we may unify all the different 
impressions. What is it that gives unity to the changing whole of our being? What is it that keeps 
up the identity of the moving thing moment after moment? What is it upon which all our different 
impressions are pieced together, upon which the perceptions, as it were, come together, reside, 



and form a united whole? We have found that to serve this end there must be something, and 
we also see that that something must be, relatively to the body and mind, motionless. The sheet 
of cloth upon which the camera throws the picture is, relatively to the rays of light, motionless, 
else there will be no picture. That is to say, the perceiver must be an individual. This something 
upon which the mind is painting all these pictures, this something upon which our sensations, 
carried by the mind and intellect, are placed and grouped and formed into a unity, is what is 
called the soul of man. 

We have seen that it is the universal cosmic mind that splits itself into the Akasha and Prana, 
and beyond mind we have found the soul in us. In the universe, behind the universal mind, there 
is a Soul that exists, and it is called God. In the individual it is the soul of man. In this universe, 
in the cosmos, just as the universal mind becomes evolved into Akasha and Prana, even so, 
we may find that the Universal Soul Itself becomes evolved as mind. Is it really so with the 
individual man? Is his mind the creator of his body, and his soul the creator of his mind? That 
is to say, are his body, his mind, and his soul three different existences or are they three in one 
or, again, are they different states of existence of the same unit being? We shall gradually try 
to find an answer to this question. The first step that we have now gained is this: here is this 
external body, behind this external body are the organs, the mind, the intellect, and behind this 
is the soul. At the first step, we have found, as it were, that the soul is separate from the body, 
separate from the mind itself. Opinions in the religious world become divided at this point, and 
the departure is this. All those religious views which generally pass under the name of dualism 
hold that this soul is qualified, that it is of various qualities, that all feelings of enjoyment, 
pleasure, and pain really belong to the soul. The non-dualists deny that the soul has any such 
qualities; they say it is unqualified. 

Let me first take up the dualists, and try to present to you their position with regard to the soul 
and its destiny; next, the system that contradicts them; and lastly, let us try to find the harmony 
which non-dualism will bring to us. This soul of man, because it is separate from the mind and 
body, because it is not composed of Akasha and Prana, must be immortal. Why? What do we 
mean by mortality? Decomposition. And that is only possible for things that are the result of 
composition; anything that is made of two or three ingredients must become decomposed. That 
alone which is not the result of composition can never become decomposed, and, therefore, 
can never die. It is immortal. It has been existing throughout eternity; it is uncreate. Every item 
of creation is simply a composition; no one ever saw creation come out of nothing. All that we 
know of creation is the combination of already existing things into newer forms. That being so, 
this soul of man, being simple, must have been existing for ever, and it will exist for ever. When 
this body falls off, the soul lives on. According to the Vedantists, when this body dissolves, the 
vital forces of the man go back to his mind and the mind becomes dissolved, as it were, into the 
Prana, and that Prana enters into the soul of man, and the soul of man comes out, clothed, as 
it were, with what they call the fine body, the mental body, or spiritual body, as you may like to 
call it. In this body are the Samskaras of the man. What are the Samskaras? This mind is like 
a lake, and every thought is like a wave upon that lake. Just as in the lake waves rise and then 
fall down and disappear, so these thought-waves are continually rising in the mind-stuff and 
then disappearing, but they do not disappear for ever. They become finer and finer, but they are 
all there, ready to start up at another time when called upon to do so. Memory is simply calling 
back into waveform some of those thoughts which have gone into that finer state of existence. 
Thus, everything that we have thought, every action that we have done, is lodged in the mind; it 
is all there in fine form, and when a man dies, the sum total of these impressions is in the mind, 
which again works upon a little fine material as a medium. The soul, clothed, as it were, with 
these impressions and the fine body, passes out, and the destiny of the soul is guided by the 
resultant of all the different forces represented by the different impressions. According to us, 



there are three different goals for the soul. 

Those that are very spiritual, when they die, follow the solar rays and reach what is called the 
solar sphere, through which they reach what is called the lunar sphere, and through that they 
reach what is called the sphere of lightning, and there they meet with another soul who is 
already blessed, and he guides the new-comer forward to the highest of all spheres, which is 
called the Brahmaloka, the sphere of Brahma. There these souls attain to omniscience and 
omnipotence, become almost as powerful and all-knowing as God Himself; and they reside 
there for ever, according to the dualists, or, according to the non-dualists, they become one with 
the Universal at the end of the cycle. The next class of persons, who have been doing good 
work with selfish motives, are carried by the results of their good works, when they die, to what 
is called lunar sphere, where there are various heavens, and there they acquire fine bodies, the 
bodies of gods. They become gods and live there and enjoy the blessing of heaven for a long 
period; and after that period is finished, the old Karma is again upon them, and so they fall back 
again to the earth; they come down through the spheres of air and clouds and all these various 
regions, and, at last, reach the earth through raindrops. There on the earth they attach 
themselves to some cereal which is eventually eaten by some man who is fit to supply them 
with material to make a new body. The last class, namely, the wicked, when they die, become 
ghosts or demons, and live somewhere midway between the lunar sphere and this earth. Some 
try to disturb mankind, some are friendly; and after living there for some time they also fall back 
to the earth and become animals. After living for some time in an animal body they get released, 
and come back, and become men again, and thus get one more chance to work out their 
salvation. We see, then, that those who have nearly attained to perfection, in whom only very 
little of impurity remains, go to the Brahmaloka through the rays of the sun; those who were a 
middling sort of people, who did some good work here with the idea of going to heaven, go to 
the heavens in the lunar sphere and there obtain god-bodies; but they have again to become 
men and so have one more chance to become perfect. Those that are very wicked become 
ghosts and demons, and then they may have to become animals; after that they become men 
again and get another chance to perfect themselves. This earth is called the Karma-Bhumi, the 
sphere of Karma. Here alone man makes his good or bad Karma. When a man wants to go to 
heaven and does good works for that purpose, he becomes as good and does not as such store 
up any bad Karma. He just enjoys the effects of the good work he did on earth; and when this 
good Karma is exhausted, there come, upon him the resultant force of all the evil Karma he had 
previously stored up in life, and that brings him down again to this earth. In the same way, those 
that become ghosts remain in that state, not giving rise to fresh Karma, but suffer the evil results 
of their past misdeeds, and later on remain for a time in an animal body without causing any 
fresh Karma. When that period is finished, they too become men again. The states of reward 
and punishment due to good and bad Karmas are devoid of the force generating fresh Karmas; 
they have only to be enjoyed or suffered. If there is an extraordinarily good or an extraordinarily 
evil Karma, it bears fruit very quickly. For instance, if a man has been doing many evil things all 
his life, but does one good act, the result of that good act will immediately appear, but when that 
result has been gone through, all the evil acts must produce their results also. All men who do 
certain good and great acts, but the general tenor of whose lives has not been correct, will 
become gods; and after living for some time in god-bodies, enjoying the powers of gods, they 
will have again to become men; when the power of the good acts is thus finished, the old evil 
comes up to be worked out. Those who do extraordinarily evil acts have to put on ghost and 
devil bodies, and when the effect of those evil actions is exhausted, the little good action which 
remains associated with them, makes them again become men. The way to Brahmaloka, from 
which there is no more fall or return, is called the Devayana, i.e. the way to God; the way to 
heaven is known as Pitriyana, i.e. the way to the fathers. 



Man, therefore, according to the Vedanta philosophy, is the greatest being that is in the 
universe, and this world of work the best place in it, because only herein is the greatest and the 
best chance for him to become perfect. Angels or gods, whatever you may call them, have all to 
become men, if they want to become perfect. This is the great centre, the wonderful poise, and 
the wonderful opportunity — this human life. 

We come next to the other aspect of philosophy. There are Buddhists who deny the whole 
theory of the soul that I have just now been propounding. "What use is there," says the 
Buddhist, "to assume something as the substratum, as the background of this body and mind? 
Why may we not allow thoughts to run on? Why admit a third substance beyond this organism, 
composed of mind and body, a third substance called the soul? What is its use? Is not this 
organism sufficient to explain itself? Why take anew a third something?" These arguments are 
very powerful. This reasoning is very strong. So far as outside research goes, we see that this 
organism is a sufficient explanation of itself — at least, many of us see it in that light. Why then 
need there be a soul as substratum, as a something which is neither mind nor body but stands 
as a background for both mind and body? Let there be only mind and body. Body is the name of 
a stream of matter continuously changing. Mind is the name of a stream of consciousness or 
thought continuously changing. What produces the apparent unity between these two? This 
unity does not really exist, let us say. Take, for instance, a lighted torch, and whirl it rapidly 
before you. You see a circle of fire. The circle does not really exist, but because the torch is 
continually moving, it leaves the appearance of a circle. So there is no unity in this life; it is a 
mass of matter continually rushing down, and the whole of this matter you may call one unity, 
but no more. So is mind; each thought is separate from every other thought; it is only the 
rushing current that leaves behind the illusion of unity; there is no need of a third substance. 
This universal phenomenon of body and mind is all that really is; do not posit something behind 
it. You will find that this Buddhist thought has been taken up by certain sects and schools in 
modern times, and all of them claim that it is new — their own invention. This has been the 
central idea of most of the Buddhistic philosophies, that this world is itself all-sufficient; that you 
need not ask for any background at all; all that is, is this sense-universe: what is the use of 
thinking of something as a support to this universe? Everything is the aggregate of qualities; 
why should there be a hypothetical substance in which they should inhere? The idea of 
substance comes from the rapid interchange of qualities, not from something unchangeable 
which exists behind them. We see how wonderful some of these arguments are, and they 
appeal easily to the ordinary experience of humanity — in fact, not one in a million can think of 
anything other than phenomena. To the vast majority of men nature appears to be only a 
changing, whirling, combining, mingling mass of change. Few of us ever have a glimpse of the 
calm sea behind. For us it is always lashed into waves; this universe appears to us only as a 
tossing mass of waves. Thus we find these two opinions. One is that there is something behind 
both body and mind which is an unchangeable and immovable substance; and the other is that 
there is no such thing as immovability or unchangeability in the universe; it is all change and 
nothing but change. The solution of this difference comes in the next step of thought, namely, 
the non-dualistic. 

It says that the dualists are right in finding something behind all, as a background which does 
not change; we cannot conceive change without there being something unchangeable. We can 
only conceive of anything that is changeable, by knowing something which is less changeable, 
and this also must appear more changeable in comparison with something else which is less 
changeable, and so on and on, until we are bound to admit that there must be something 
which never changes at all. The whole of this manifestation must have been in a state of non- 
manifestation, calm and silent, being the balance of opposing forces, so to say, when no force 
operated, because force acts when a disturbance of the equilibrium comes in. The universe 



is ever hurrying on to return to that state of equilibrium again. If we are certain of any fact 
whatsoever, we are certain of this. When the dualists claim that there is a something which 
does not change, they are perfectly right, but their analysis that it is an underlying something 
which is neither the body nor the mind, a something separate from both, is wrong. So far as the 
Buddhists say that the whole universe is a mass of change, they are perfectly right; so long as 
I am separate from the universe, so long as I stand back and look at something before me, so 
long as there are two things — the looker-on and the thing looked upon — it will appear always 
that the universe is one of change, continuously changing all the time. But the reality is that 
there is both change and changelessness in this universe. It is not that the soul and the mind 
and the body are three separate existences, for this organism made of these three is really one. 
It is the same thing which appears as the body, as the mind, and as the thing beyond mind and 
body, but it is not at the same time all these. He who sees the body does not see the mind even, 
he who sees the mind does not see that which he calls the soul, and he who sees the soul — 
for him the body and mind have vanished. He who sees only motion never sees absolute calm, 
and he who sees absolute calm — for him motion has vanished. A rope is taken for a snake. He 
who sees the rope as the snake, for him the rope has vanished, and when the delusion ceases 
and he looks at the rope, the snake has vanished. 

There is then but one all-comprehending existence, and that one appears as manifold. This 
Self or Soul or Substance is all that exists in the universe. That Self or Substance or Soul is, 
in the language of non-dualism, the Brahman appearing to be manifold by the interposition of 
name and form. Look at the waves in the sea. Not one wave is really different from the sea, but 
what makes the wave apparently different? Name and form; the form of the wave and the name 
which we give to it, "wave". This is what makes it different from the sea. When name and form 
go, it is the same sea. Who can make any real difference between the wave and the sea? So 
this whole universe is that one Unit Existence; name and form have created all these various 
differences. As when the sun shines upon millions of globules of water, upon each particle is 
seen a most perfect representation of the sun, so the one Soul, the one Self, the one Existence 
of the universe, being reflected on all these numerous globules of varying names and forms, 
appears to be various. But it is in reality only one. There is no "I" nor "you"; it is all one. It is 
either all "I" or all "you". This idea of duality, calf two, is entirely false, and the whole universe, 
as we ordinarily know it, is the result of this false knowledge. When discrimination comes and 
man finds there are not two but one, he finds that he is himself this universe. "It is I who am 
this universe as it now exists, a continuous mass of change. It is I who am beyond all changes, 
beyond all qualities, the eternally perfect, the eternally blessed." 

There is, therefore, but one Atman, one Self, eternally pure, eternally perfect, unchangeable, 
unchanged; it has never changed; and all these various changes in the universe are but 
appearances in that one Self. 

Upon it name and form have painted all these dreams; it is the form that makes the wave 
different from the sea. Suppose the wave subsides, will the form remain? No, it will vanish. The 
existence of the wave was entirely dependent upon the existence of the sea, but the existence 
of the sea was not at all dependent upon the existence of the wave. The form remains so long 
as the wave remains, but as soon as the wave leaves it, it vanishes, it cannot remain. This 
name and form is the outcome of what is called Maya. It is this Maya that is making individuals, 
making one appear different from another. Yet it has no existence. Maya cannot be said to 
exist. Form cannot be said to exist, because it depends upon the existence of another thing. It 
cannot be said as not to exist, seeing that it makes all this difference. According to the Advaita 
philosophy, then, this Maya or ignorance — or name and form, or, as it has been called in 
Europe, "time, space, and causality" — is out of this one Infinite Existence showing us the 



manifoldness of the universe; in substance, this universe is one. So long as any one thinks 
that there are two ultimate realities, he is mistaken. When he has come to know that there is 
but one, he is right. This is what is being proved to us every day, on the physical plane, on the 
mental plane, and also on the spiritual plane. Today it has been demonstrated that you and 
I, the sun, the moon, and the stars are but the different names of different spots in the same 
ocean of matter, and that this matter is continuously changing in its configuration. This particle 
of energy that was in the sun several months ago may be in the human being now; tomorrow it 
may be in an animal, the day after tomorrow it may be in a plant. It is ever coming and going. It 
is all one unbroken, infinite mass of matter, only differentiated by names and forms. One point 
is called the sun; another, the moon; another, the stars; another, man; another, animal; another, 
plant; and so on. And all these names are fictitious; they have no reality, because the whole is 
a continuously changing mass of matter. This very same universe, from another standpoint, is 
an ocean of thought, where each one of us is a point called a particular mind. You are a mind, 
I am a mind, everyone is a mind; and the very same universe viewed from the standpoint of 
knowledge, when the eyes have been cleared of delusions, when the mind has become pure, 
appears to be the unbroken Absolute Being, the ever pure, the unchangeable, the immortal. 

What then becomes of all this threefold eschatology of the dualist, that when a man dies he 
goes to heaven, or goes to this or that sphere, and that the wicked persons become ghosts, 
and become animals, and so forth? None comes and none goes, says the non-dualist. How 
can you come and go? You are infinite; where is the place for you to go? In a certain school a 
number of little children were being examined. The examiner had foolishly put all sorts of difficult 
questions to the little children. Among others there was this question: "Why does not the earth 
fall ?" His intention was to bring out the idea of gravitation or some other intricate scientific truth 
from these children. Most of them could not even understand the question, and so they gave all 
sorts of wrong answers. But one bright little girl answered it with another question: "Where shall 
it fall?" The very question of the examiner was nonsense on the face of it. There is no up and 
down in the universe; the idea is only relative. So it is with regard to the soul; the very question 
of birth and death in regard to it is utter nonsense. Who goes and who comes? Where are you 
not? Where is the heaven that you are not in already? Omnipresent is the Self of man. Where 
is it to go? Where is it not to go? It is everywhere. So all this childish dream and puerile illusion 
of birth and death, of heavens and higher heavens and lower worlds, all vanish immediately 
for the perfect. For the nearly perfect it vanishes after showing them the several scenes up to 
Brahmaloka. It continues for the ignorant. 

How is it that the whole world believes in going to heaven, and in dying and being born? I am 
studying a book, page after page is being read and turned over. Another page comes and is 
turned over. Who changes? Who comes and goes? Not I, but the book. This whole nature is a 
book before the soul, chapter after chapter is being read and turned over, and every now and 
then a scene opens. That is read and turned over. A fresh one comes, but the soul is ever the 
same — eternal. It is nature that is changing, not the soul of man. This never changes. Birth and 
death are in nature, not in you. Yet the ignorant are deluded; just as we under delusion think 
that the sun is moving and not the earth, in exactly the same way we think that we are dying, 
and not nature. These are all, therefore, hallucinations. Just as it is a hallucination when we 
think that the fields are moving and not the railway train, exactly in the same manner is the 
hallucination of birth and death. When men are in a certain frame of mind, they see this very 
existence as the earth, as the sun, the moon, the stars; and all those who are in the same state 
of mind see the same things. Between you and me there may be millions of beings on different 
planes of existence. They will never see us, nor we them; we only see those who are in the 
same state of mind and on the same plane with us. Those musical instruments respond which 
have the same attunement of vibration, as it were; if the state of vibration, which they call "man- 



vibration", should be changed, no longer would men be seen here; the whole "man-universe" 
would vanish, and instead of that, other scenery would come before us, perhaps gods and the 
god-universe, or perhaps, for the wicked man, devils and the diabolic world; but all would be 
only different views of the one universe. It is this universe which, from the human plane, is seen 
as the earth, the sun, the moon, the stars, and all such things — it is this very universe which, 
seen from the plane of wickedness, appears as a place of punishment. And this very universe is 
seen as heaven by those who want to see it as heaven. Those who have been dreaming of 
going to a God who is sitting on a throne, and of standing there praising Him all their lives, when 
they die, will simply see a vision of what they have in their minds; this very universe will simply 
change into a vast heaven, with all sorts of winged beings flying about and a God sitting on a 
throne. These heavens are all of man's own making. So what the dualist says is true, says the 
Advaitin, but it is all simply of his own making. These spheres and devils and gods and 
reincarnations and transmigrations are all mythology; so also is this human life. The great 
mistake that men always make is to think that this life alone is true. They understand it well 
enough when other things are called mythologies, but are never willing to admit the same of 
their own position. The whole thing as it appears is mere mythology, and the greatest of all lies 
is that we are bodies, which we never were nor even can be. It is the greatest of all lies that we 
are mere men; we are the God of the universe. In worshipping God we have been always 
worshipping our own hidden Self. The worst lie that you ever tell yourself is that you were born a 
sinner or a wicked man. He alone is a sinner who sees a sinner in another man. Suppose there 
is a baby here, and you place a bag of gold on the table. Suppose a robber comes and takes 
the gold away. To the baby it is all the same; because there is no robber inside, there is no 
robber outside. To sinners and vile men, there is vileness outside, but not to good men. So the 
wicked see this universe as a hell, and the partially good see it as heaven, while the perfect 
beings realise it as God Himself. Then alone the veil falls from the eyes, and the man, purified 
and cleansed, finds his whole vision changed. The bad dreams that have been torturing him for 
millions of years, all vanish, and he who was thinking of himself either as a man, or a god, or a 
demon, he who was thinking of himself as living in low places, in high places, on earth, in 
heaven, and so on, finds that he is really omnipresent; that all time is in him, and that he is not 
in time; that all the heavens are in him, that he is not in any heaven; and that all the gods that 
man ever worshipped are in him, and that he is not in any one of those gods. He was the 
manufacturer of gods and demons, of men and plants and animals and stones, and the real 
nature of man now stands unfolded to him as being higher than heaven, more perfect than this 
universe of ours, more infinite than infinite time, more omnipresent than the omnipresent ether. 
Thus alone man becomes fearless, and becomes free. Then all delusions cease, all miseries 
vanish, all fears come to an end for ever. Birth goes away and with it death; pains fly, and with 
them fly away pleasures; earths vanish, and with them vanish heavens; bodies vanish, and with 
them vanishes the mind also. For that man disappears the whole universe, as it were. This 
searching, moving, continuous struggle of forces stops for ever, and that which was manifesting 
itself as force and matter, as struggles of nature, as nature itself, as heavens and earths and 
plants and animals and men and angels, all that becomes transfigured into one infinite, 
unbreakable, unchangeable existence, and the knowing man finds that he is one with that 
existence. "Even as clouds of various colours come before the sky, remain there for a second 
and then vanish away," even so before this soul are all these visions coming, of earths and 
heavens, of the moon and the gods, of pleasures and pains; but they all pass away leaving the 
one infinite, blue, unchangeable sky. The sky never changes; it is the clouds that change. It is a 
mistake to think that the sky is changed. It is a mistake to think that we are impure, that we are 
limited, that we are separate. The real man is the one Unit Existence. 

Two questions now arise. The first is: "Is it possible to realise this? So far it is doctrine, 
philosophy, but is it possible to realise it?" It is. There are men still living in this world for whom 



delusion has vanished for ever. Do they immediately die after such realisation? Not so soon 
as we should think. Two wheels joined by one pole are running together. If I get hold of one of 
the wheels and, with an axe, cut the pole asunder, the wheel which I have got hold of stops, 
but upon the other wheel is its past momentum, so it runs on a little arid then falls down. This 
pure and perfect being, the soul, is one wheel, and this external hallucination of body and mind 
is the other wheel, joined together by the pole of work, of Karma. Knowledge is the axe which 
will sever the bond between the two, and the wheel of the soul will stop — stop thinking that it 
is coming and going, living and dying, stop thinking that it is nature and has wants and desires, 
and will find that it is perfect, desireless. But upon the other wheel, that of the body and mind, 
will be the momentum of past acts; so it will live for some time, until that momentum of past 
work is exhausted, until that momentum is worked away, and then the body and mind fall, and 
the soul becomes free. No more is there any going to heaven and coming back, not even any 
going to the Brahmaloka, or to any of the highest of the spheres, for where is he to come from, 
or to go to? The man who has in this life attained to this state, for whom, for a minute at least, 
the ordinary vision of the world has changed and the reality has been apparent, he is called 
the "Living Free". This is the goal of the Vedantin, to attain freedom while living. 

Once in Western India I was travelling in the desert country on the coast of the Indian Ocean. 
For days and days I used to travel on foot through the desert, but it was to my surprise that I 
saw every day beautiful lakes, with trees all round them, and the shadows of the trees upside 
down and vibrating there. "How wonderful it looks and they call this a desert country!" I said to 
myself. Nearly a month I travelled, seeing these wonderful lakes and trees and plants. One day 
I was very thirsty and wanted to have a drink of water, so I started to go to one of these clear, 
beautiful lakes, and as I approached, it vanished. And with a flash it came to my brain, "This is 
the mirage about which I have read all my life," and with that came also the idea that throughout 
the whole of this month, every day, I had been seeing the mirage and did not know it. The next 
morning I began my march. There was again the lake, but with it came also the idea that it was 
the mirage and not a true lake. So is it with this universe. We are all travelling in this mirage 
of the world day after day, month after month, year after year, not knowing that it is a mirage. 
One day it will break up, but it will come back again; the body has to remain under the power 
of past Karma, and so the mirage will come back. This world will come back upon us so long 
as we are bound by Karma: men, women, animals, plants, our attachments and duties, all will 
come back to us, but not with the same power. Under the influence of the new knowledge the 
strength of Karma will be broken, its poison will be lost. It becomes transformed, for along with it 
there comes the idea that we know it now, that the sharp distinction between the reality and the 
mirage has been known. 

This world will not then be the same world as before. There is, however, a danger here. We 
see in every country people taking up this philosophy and saying, "I am beyond all virtue and 
vice; so I am not bound by any moral laws; I may do anything I like." You may find many fools in 
this country at the present time, saying, "I am not bound; I am God Himself; let me do anything 
I like." This is not right, although it is true that the soul is beyond all laws, physical, mental, or 
moral. Within law is bondage; beyond law is freedom. It is also true that freedom is of the nature 
of the soul, it is its birthright: that real freedom of the soul shines through veils of matter in the 
form of the apparent freedom of man. Every moment of your life you feel that you are free. We 
cannot live, talk, or breathe for a moment without feeling that we are free; but, at the same time, 
a little thought shows us that we are like machines and not free. What is true then? Is this idea 
of freedom a delusion? One party holds that the idea of freedom is a delusion; another says 
that the idea of bondage is a delusion. How does this happen? Man is really free, the real man 
cannot but be free. It is when he comes into the world of Maya, into name and form, that he 
becomes bound. Free will is a misnomer. Will can never be free. How can it be? It is only when 



the real man has become bound that his will comes into existence, and not before. The will of 
man is bound, but that which is the foundation of that will is eternally free. So, even in the state 
of bondage which we call human life or god-life, on earth or in heaven, there yet remains to us 
that recollection of the freedom which is ours by divine right. And consciously or unconsciously 
we are all struggling towards it. When a man has attained his own freedom, how can he be 
bound by any law? No law in this universe can bind him, for this universe itself is his. 

He is the whole universe. Either say he is the whole universe or say that to him there is no 
universe. How can he have then all these little ideas about sex and about country? How can 
he say, I am a man, I am a woman I am a child? Are they not lies? He knows that they are. 
How can he say that these are man's rights, and these others are woman's rights? Nobody has 
rights; nobody separately exists. There is neither man nor woman; the soul is sexless, eternally 
pure. It is a lie to say that I am a man or a woman, or to say that I belong to this country or that. 
All the world is my country, the whole universe is mine, because I have clothed myself with it as 
my body. Yet we see that there are people in this world who are ready to assert these doctrines, 
and at the same time do things which we should call filthy; and if we ask them why they do so, 
they tell us that it is our delusion and that they can do nothing wrong. What is the test by which 
they are to be judged? The test is here. 

Though evil and good are both conditioned manifestations of the soul, yet evil is the most 
external coating, and good is the nearer coating of the real man, the Self. And unless a man 
cuts through the layer of evil he cannot reach the layer of good, and unless he has passed 
through both the layers of good and evil he cannot reach the Self. He who reaches the Self, 
what remains attached to him? A little Karma, a little bit of the momentum of past life, but it is 
all good momentum. Until the bad momentum is entirely worked out and past impurities are 
entirely burnt, it is impossible for any man to see and realise truth. So, what is left attached to 
the man who has reached the Self and seen the truth is the remnant of the good impressions of 
past life, the good momentum. Even if he lives in the body and works incessantly, he works only 
to do good; his lips speak only benediction to all; his hands do only good works; his mind can 
only think good thoughts; his presence is a blessing wherever he goes. He is himself a living 
blessing. Such a man will, by his very presence, change even the most wicked persons into 
saints. Even if he does not speak, his very presence will be a blessing to mankind. Can such 
men do any evil; can they do wicked deeds? There is, you must remember, all the difference of 
pole to pole between realisation and mere talking. Any fool can talk. Even parrots talk. Talking is 
one thing, and realising is another. Philosophies, and doctrines, and arguments, and books, and 
theories, and churches, and sects, and all these things are good in their own way; but when that 
realisation comes, these things drop away. For instance, maps are good, but when you see the 
country itself, and look again at the maps, what a great difference you find! So those that have 
realised truth do not require the ratiocinations of logic and all other gymnastics of the intellect 
to make them understand the truth; it is to them the life of their lives, concretised, made more 
than tangible. It is, as the sages of the Vedanta say, "even as a fruit in your hand"; you can 
stand up and say, it is here. So those that have realised the truth will stand up and say, "Here 
is the Self. You may argue with them by the year, but they will smile at you; they will regard it 
all as child's prattle; they will let the child prattle on. They have realised the truth and are full. 
Suppose you have seen a country, and another man comes to you and tries to argue with you 
that that country never existed, he may go on arguing indefinitely, but your only attitude of mind 
towards him must be to hold that the man is fit for a lunatic asylum. So the man of realisation 
says, "All this talk in the world about its little religions is but prattle; realisation is the soul, the 
very essence of religion." Religion can be realised. Are you ready? Do you want it? You will get 
the realisation if you do, and then you will be truly religious. Until you have attained realisation 
there is no difference between you and atheists. The atheists are sincere, but the man who says 



that he believes in religion and never attempts to realise it is not sincere. 

The next question is to know what comes after realisation. Suppose we have realised this 
oneness of the universe, that we are that one Infinite Being, and suppose we have realised that 
this Self is the only Existence and that it is the same Self which is manifesting in all these 
various phenomenal forms, what becomes of us after that? Shall we become inactive, get into a 
corner and sit down there and die away? "What good will it do to the world?" That old question! 
In the first place, why should it do good to the world? Is there any reason why it should? What 
right has any one to ask the question, "What good will it do to the world?" What is meant by 
that? A baby likes candies. Suppose you are conducting investigations in connection with some 
subject of electricity and the baby asks you, "Does it buy candies?" "No" you answer. "Then 
what good will it do?" says the baby. So men stand up and say, "What good will this do to the 
world; will it give us money?" "No." "Then what good is there in it?" That is what men mean by 
doing good to the world. Yet religious realisation does all the good to the world. People are 
afraid that when they attain to it, when they realise that there is but one, the fountains of love 
will be dried up, that everything in life will go away, and that all they love will vanish for them, as 
it were, in this life and in the life to come. People never stop to think that those who bestowed 
the least thought on their own individualities have been the greatest workers in the world. Then 
alone a man loves when he finds that the object of his love is not any low, little, mortal thing. 
Then alone a man loves when he finds that the object of his love is not a clod of earth, but it is 
the veritable God Himself. The wife will love the husband the more when she thinks that the 
husband is God Himself. The husband will love the wife the more when he knows that the wife 
is God Himself. That mother will love the children more who thinks that the children are God 
Himself. That man will love his greatest enemy who knows that that very enemy is God Himself. 
That man will love a holy man who knows that the holy man is God Himself, and that very man 
will also love the unholiest of men because he knows the background of that unholiest of men is 
even He, the Lord. Such a man becomes a world-mover for whom his little self is dead and God 
stands in its place. The whole universe will become transfigured to him. That which is painful 
and miserable will all vanish; struggles will all depart and go. Instead of being a prison-house, 
where we every day struggle and fight and compete for a morsel of bread, this universe will then 
be to us a playground. Beautiful will be this universe then! Such a man alone has the right to 
stand up and say, "How beautiful is this world!" He alone has the right to say that it is all good. 
This will be the great good to the world resulting from such realisation, that instead of this world 
going on with all its friction and clashing, if all mankind today realise only a bit of that great truth, 
the aspect of the whole world will be changed, and, in place of fighting and quarrelling, there 
would be a reign of peace. This indecent and brutal hurry which forces us to go ahead of every 
one else will then vanish from the world. With it will vanish all struggle, with it will vanish all hate, 
with it will vanish all jealousy, and all evil will vanish away for ever. Gods will live then upon this 
earth. This very earth will then become heaven, and what evil can there be when gods are 
playing with gods, when gods are working with gods, and gods are loving gods? That is the 
great utility of divine realisation. Everything that you see in society will be changed and 
transfigured then. No more will you think of man as evil; and that is the first great gain. No more 
will you stand up and sneeringly cast a glance at a poor man or woman who has made a 
mistake. No more, ladies, will you look down with contempt upon the poor woman who walks 
the street in the night, because you will see even there God Himself. No more will you think of 
jealousy and punishments. They will all vanish; and love, the great ideal of love, will be so 
powerful that no whip and cord will be necessary to guide mankind aright. 

If one millionth part of the men and women who live in this world simply sit down and for a 
few minutes say, "You are all God, O ye men and O ye animals and living beings, you are all 
the manifestations of the one living Deity!" the whole world will be changed in half an hour. 



Instead of throwing tremendous bomb-shells of hatred into every corner, instead of projecting 
currents of jealousy and of evil thought, in every country people will think that it is all He. He 
is all that you see and feel. How can you see evil until there is evil in you? How can you see 
the thief, unless he is there, sitting in the heart of your heart? How can you see the murderer 
until you are yourself the murderer? Be good, and evil will vanish for you. The whole universe 
will thus be changed. This is the greatest gain to society. This is the great gain to the human 
organism. These thoughts were thought out, worked out amongst individuals in ancient times 
in India. For various reasons, such as the exclusiveness of the teachers and foreign conquest, 
those thoughts were not allowed to spread. Yet they are grand truths; and wherever they have 
been working, man has become divine. My whole life has been changed by the touch of one of 
these divine men, about whom I am going to speak to you next Sunday; and the time is coming 
when these thoughts will be cast abroad over the whole world. Instead of living in monasteries, 
instead of being confined to books of philosophy to be studied only by the learned, instead 
of being the exclusive possession of sects and of a few of the learned, they will all be sown 
broadcast over the whole world, so that they may become the common property of the saint and 
the sinner, of men and women and children, of the learned and of the ignorant. They will then 
permeate the atmosphere of the world, and the very air that we breathe will say with every one 
of its pulsations, "Thou art That". And the whole universe with its myriads of suns and moons, 
through everything that speaks, with one voice will say, "Thou art That".